Nobody wants a case of the sniffles, especially in the age of Coronavirus. Once you talk to your doctor and rule out COVID-19, there are two likely culprits behind your symptoms: a cold or a sinus infection. Understanding the difference will help you seek appropriate treatment and feel better faster.
Is It the Common Cold?
There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold. The most common of which is from a family of viruses called rhinoviruses, which are responsible for approximately 40% of colds. Colds are spread from person to person through close personal contact like at the SC State Farmers Market.
Symptoms of a cold include:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Postnasal drip
- Fever (but not always)
Cold symptoms usually peak within two to three days, then begin to resolve with proper rest and hydration.
Is It a Sinus Infection?
The sinuses are hollow connected cavities in the skull located behind the nose, cheeks and forehead. The membranes of the sinuses produce mucus that lubricates the airway and traps germs.
A cold virus can infect the sinuses, triggering inflammation of the sinus membranes, which is known as viral sinusitis. Inflammation can also trap mucus and harbor bacteria, which is called bacterial sinusitis or, more commonly, a sinus infection. Bacterial sinus infections often require antibiotics.
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Facial pain/pressure
- Nasal congestion
- Poor sense of smell
- Pain in the jaw/teeth
Types of Sinusitis
Sinusitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis typically lasts two to four weeks, but can last much longer. Once your infection has hung on for 12 weeks or more, it is considered chronic.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and Sinus Infection
There are two major ways to tell the difference between a cold/viral sinusitis from a bacterial sinus infection.
According to Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an otolaryngologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, “One is that the symptoms of a cold or viral sinusitis traditionally begin to improve after three to five days. The symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection tend to dwell, lasting longer than 10 days without improving.” He continues, “If symptoms of what you thought was a cold last longer than 10 days without improvement, then that may very well be a sinus infection.”
The other way to tell is how your symptoms pattern. When an illness that seems like a cold starts to improve after a few days but then takes a turn for the worse, “That’s called double worsening, and suggests that what began as a cold has turned into a bacterial sinus infection,” says Dr. Sedaghat.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call CENTA Medical Group today.