Is It a Cold or a Sinus Infection?

Friday, June 01, 2012 8:31 AM comments (0)

Cold-SinusAt one time or another—and maybe even multiple times each year—we’ve all had the symptoms of a cold. 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. She also recommends when you should see your doctor if symptoms persist:

Common Cold
There is no real way to prevent getting a cold. Instead, it’s recommended to wash your hands frequently, and not to share cups and toothbrushes. If you do have a cold, there isn’t much a doctor can do, since prescribing antibiotics is not recommended. Most colds typically last 7-10 days, and common symptoms include:

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


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, and 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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