Summer Cold or a Sinus Infection?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 11:07 AM

Cold-SinusAt one time or another—and maybe even multiple times each year—we’ve all had the symptoms of a cold. But there's no worse time to suffer the symptoms of a cold than in the summer. The familiar prolonged running nose and sniffling, and the sinus pressure that comes along with it. How do you know if it’s just a common cold or a sinus infection?

Ilana Seligman, MD, Pediatric Otolaryngologist at NorthShore, breaks down the differences between a cold and a sinus infection, and tells us the right time to make an appointment with a doctor: 

Common Cold
There are not perfect steps to follow for cold prevention; instead, it’s best to wash your hands frequently, and avoid sharing cups and toothbrushes. If you already have a cold, there isn’t much a doctor can do because prescribing antibiotics is not recommended. You can, however, treat the symptoms. Most colds typically last 7-10 days, and common symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Fever
  • Sore throat or cough
  • Clear or colored nasal discharge

Treating the Symptoms

  • For a stuffy nose, nasal decongestants can help you breathe easier. If you want to go the more natural route, try a saline nasal sprays or even a Neti Pot. 
  • For cough, warm liquids, like tea with honey, can be enough to provide relief. The honey also pulls double duty by soothing sore, scratchy throats. 
  • Sleep! Rest is the key to bouncing back fast.  

Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is an infection or inflammation of the lining of the sinus cavities. Very few colds—only 5-10%—will turn into sinus infections. Common signs your cold is a sinus infection include:

  • Continued nasal congestion after 10 days
  • Significant headaches, teeth or facial pain
  • High fever or persistent drainage

If you experience these symptoms it may be a sinus infection, which means it's time to consult your physician. Common treatment often includes prescribing antibiotics.

Do you know when you have a cold versus a sinus infection? What home remedies to you defer to when you have a cold?

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