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How to Tell – Cold Vs. Sinus Infection?


WRITTEN BY: Urgent Care
Saturday, January 4th, 2014

A cold and a sinus infection have so many overlapping symptoms it can be difficult to distinguish between the two of them.But there are a few unique indicators of each condition, so look out for them to help you determine which one you have and when to see a physician.

The common cold is caused by a virus that infects the nose and throat. It is the most commonly occurring illness in the world, and the leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work. It typically lasts between 7 to 10 days. No treatment is necessary for a cold, but over-the-counter medication like cough medicine and pain relievers can help relieve symptoms.

Common Cold Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is the inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. It is caused by either a bacteria or virus. A sinus infection usually lasts a few weeks, and it can be developed from a worsened common cold, allergies and rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose).

Sinus Infection Symptoms

In addition to cold symptoms, a sinus infection also causes pain around the face and eyes, greenish or yellow mucus, chest discomfort, and mild fever. Most sinus infections resolve on their own in two weeks. Over-the-counter medication can help relieve symptoms, but they do not speed up the recovery process.

Visit your doctor or an urgent care physician if you don’t see any improvement after a week, your symptoms worsen, or symptoms recur frequently. Antibiotics may be prescribed in some cases when symptoms are not resolving.

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