Sinus Infection vs. Cold: Know the Difference

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

A cold and a sinus infection have many overlapping symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. But, there are a few unique indicators of each condition. Look out for them to help you figure out which one you have and when to see a doctor.

What Is the Common Cold?

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. A cold typically lasts between 7 to 10 days.

No treatment is necessary for a cold., Certain over-the-counter medications, like cough medicine and pain relievers, can help relieve symptoms of a cold.

Common Cold Symptoms

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

What Is a Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)?

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is the inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. Sinus infections are caused by either a bacteria or virus. A sinus infection usually lasts a few weeks. It develop 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
  • Mild fever

Most sinus infections resolve on their own in two weeks. Over-the-counter medication can help relieve symptoms of a sinus infection, but they do not speed up the recovery process.

Visit your doctor or an urgent care doctor 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.

urgent care

Urgent Care

Whether it’s after your doctor’s office is closed, or any time when you can’t wait to see a doctor, UPMC Urgent Care is here to help. Our walk-in clinics provide a full range of medical services for people of all ages, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our 7 urgent care locations throughout western Pennsylvania are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., no appointments necessary. Read More