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How to Differentiate Between Cold and Sinus Infection?

Having common cold is very common, while sinus infection is also seen in many people. While both conditions may seem similar, they do have differences and the terms need to be used appropriately. Let us understand both conditions in detail and about how to differentiate between cold and sinus infection

How to Differentiate Between Cold and Sinus Infection?

How to Differentiate Between Cold and Sinus Infection?

Here is a detailed description of both conditions that give an idea how to differentiate between cold and sinus infection.

Sinus Infection

It refers to the spread of infection across the nasal passage and can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even minor allergies. Suffering from cold might not directly lead to having sinus infection, but makes our body vulnerable to the same. A sick person may develop a tendency to touch the nose all the more, thus welcoming infection into the system.

Sinus gets cured with passage of time, but once the bacteria find their way inside the body, it stays there and keeps on breeding which becomes a challenge to treat. Here are some symptoms of sinus problems that helps to differentiate between cold and sinus infection.

Symptoms of Sinus Infection

Patients suffering from sinus infection, often experience the following symptoms. These often help to differentiate between cold and sinus infection and the severity of these also varies from person to person.

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Bad breath.
  • Worsening headache.
  • Thick green or yellow mucus draining from the back of your throat or down your nose.
  • Decreased sense of smell.
  • Stuffy and runny nose lasting for more than a week.
  • Sinus pressure behind the cheeks and eyes.

Management of Sinus Infection

An acute sinus infection might turn chronic if treatment is not imparted in time. Following are some of the ways to manage sinus:-

  • Antibiotics – If you find these symptoms and suspect sinus infection, it is important to seek medical help. A physician can confirm and differentiate between cold and sinus infection. Once diagnosed, a simple course of antibiotics is enough to infiltrate the infectious fortress.
  • Sinus Irrigation – For effective management of sinus infection, experts usually recommend sinus irrigation to minimize the sinus symptoms in addition to medications. This is planned once it is diagnosed.
  • Mucus Thinners, Steroids and Decongestants – Over-the-counter mucus thinners, steroids and decongestants also provide much relief from the discomfort caused due to sinus infection.

However, if your infection does not cease even after one or two courses of antibiotic, then it is advisable to visit an ENT specialist for further treatment. Surgical treatment is also considered in some advanced cases.

Considering the severity of the infection and variety of treatment options, it is necessary to know how to differentiate between cold and sinus infection.


If a cold virus manages to discover the secret pass way inside your body then be prepared to spend the next few days glued to the tissue box. Usually colds get cured by itself within five to ten days.

Symptoms of Cold

You need to look for the following signs and symptoms of cold, which will also help to differentiate between cold and sinus infection. Some of the symptoms of cold are

Management of Cold

The treatment options and management of cold includes the following ways.

  • Medications – While antibiotics are not needed to treat common cold virus, over-the-counter medications and if required, fever medicines can surely make you feel better.
  • Increase Fluid Intake – It is also advised to increase fluid consumption during such times. Warm drinks, soups also help a great deal.
  • Ample Rest – Taking ample amount of rest can also work. Although it is difficult to breathe due to congested nostrils, getting sound sleep at night, can help to relieve your cold symptoms.

In some cases of recurrent cold, where the chances of sinus infection are high, sinus irrigation may be considered to offer relief.


Now, with an understanding on how to differentiate between cold and sinus infection, you may be able to manage your symptoms well. Though there is a slight line of difference between cold and sinus infection, it is always advised to consult your physician in either of the cases. A slight delay in treating any of the conditions, especially the sinus infection can prove out to be disastrous.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Sinusitis (Sinus Infection). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351661
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Sinusitis (Sinus Infection). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/sinusitis-sinus-infection-a-to-z
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html
  4. WebMD. (2021). Cold and Flu Overview. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/cold-flu-what-difference
  5. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. (n.d.). Sinus Infection (Sinusitis). Retrieved from https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/sinusitis/
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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