It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a cold, but there are some keys signs associated with each, which can aid in diagnosing one or the other. The first thing that people should understand is that colds are the result of viruses, whereas a sinus infection may emerge as a complication of a virus, or of other conditions like allergies, and they may be caused by bacteria or by other agents that result in sinus swelling. Some people suffer from chronic sinus infections or sinusitis and are prone to getting this condition even if they don’t have colds first. Frequent sinusitis cases, more than three to four a year, suggest that person should see a doctor, preferably an ear nose throat specialist, to determine if there are methods for reducing number of yearly sinus infections.
Common symptoms of a cold can include the following:
- Runny or congested nose
- Slight fever, especially in kids,
- Sore throat
- Fatigue or a feeling of being run down or tired
- Postnasal drip
Most colds hit their peak about seven to ten days after the cold has begun, and symptoms usually disappear about two weeks after a cold starts. The symptoms, which might start either during or after a cold, are very different. Chief among these is pain: pain in the head, pain in the neck, pain in the forehead or around the nose, and sometimes jaw or teeth pain. People may especially feel that there is pressure around the eyes, nose and forehead, and feeling these areas can be very uncomfortable.
Another indication of an actual infection is color of nasal mucus. In most colds mucus is clear, white or slightly yellow. With a sinus infection, mucus can be darker yellow or green. It may also have a peculiar smell, and sense of smell may be very much affected.
One of the ways some people tell they have a sinus infection is that they start with a cold that doesn’t seem to get any better after the two week period, but a cold doesn’t always cause infections, as mentioned. Allergies, flus, and even sometimes unknown reasons can result in sinusitis. What’s even more difficult is that colds and sinus infections share some symptoms in common, including postnasal drip, congested nose, fatigue and slight fever. Thus for people trying to differentiate between the two, the biggest indicators are color of mucus, duration of nasal congestion and sinus pain or pressure.
A sinus infection may be treated differently than a cold. People may require antibiotics if the infection is of bacterial origin. Many sufferers of sinusitis find relief in doing twice-daily nasal washes, though this can help during a cold too. Another commonly prescribed treatment is inhaled steroids for the nose, which can help reduce swelling of the sinuses. This can be used as a year round preventative too, to reduce the number of infections.
Undergoing minor surgery that widens the sinus passages helps some people with chronic sinusitis. This isn’t always required, but when people suffer from these infections frequently it may make a great difference. Speak with a doctor or a good ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist about whether surgery may be appropriate, given frequency and duration of sinusitis episodes.