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Sinusitis or cold? How to recognise the signs and symptoms of a sinus infection

A cold can make a person feel run down by causing them to have a stuffy and runny nose. So, which is it? These symptoms could also indicate a sinus infection.

Because the symptoms frequently overlap, identifying each condition can be difficult. A cold is referred to as rhinitis, while a sinus infection is referred to as sinusitis.

A cold, a form of viral infection of the respiratory system, is caused by more than 100 different viruses. Colds spread when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes, releasing virus-laden droplets into the air. They can also spread when a sick person sneezes on or contacts a surface, allowing the virus to infect a new host.

The sinuses are the air-filled sacs behind the nose. When the sinuses swell up, colds can lead to sinus infections. Air, mucus, and bacteria can become trapped in enlarged sinuses, causing infection to cause.

The duration of symptoms is the key distinction between a cold and a sinus infection. A cold usually lasts 5 to 10 days for most people. In people who have a chronic case of sinusitis, the condition can last up to 4 weeks or more than 3 months in the body.

When to consult a doctor

runny nose

If any of the following symptoms appear, people should consult a doctor, regardless of the cause:

  • a persistent cough
  • fever over 103º Fahrenheit
  • rash
  • shortness of breath, wheezing
  • vomitin

Seek medical help if your sinus infection symptoms do not improve or worsen after a couple of weeks.

The symptoms

Symptoms of a cold include:

  • a cough
  • mild body aches
  • low fever
  • a stuffed and runny nose
  • sneezing

Symptoms normally peak in the first 3 to 5 days, then progressively improve. The majority of people do not have symptoms for more than 10 to 2 weeks.

Sinus infection symptoms might be more severe and continue for up to four weeks. They are as follows:

  • pain in the upper jaw and teeth
  • fever
  • stuffed nose
  • fatigue
  • bad breath
  • thick yellow or green nasal discharge
  • pain in the face – especially around the eyes, nose, cheeks, and forehead
  • headache behind the eyes
  • a cough

Sinusitis can go away on its own, but it’s more likely than a cold to require medical attention.

Symptoms in children

Sinus infection symptoms in children, like those in adults, are easily confused with those of a cold.

Cold-like symptoms, such as a congested nose with yellow-green discharge and a minor fever that lasts longer than 10 to 14 days, are most common in young children. They may also be more irritable than usual.

In addition to congestion, older children and teenagers may experience the following:

  • pain in the face
  • a cough that does not resolve
  • a headache
  • swelling around the eyes
  • bad breath
  • tooth pain
  • ear pain

If a child is still unwell after 14 days, or if the fever persists for more than three days after acetaminophen treatment, they should consult a paediatrician.

If a child’s symptoms last for more than a few months, he or she may have chronic sinusitis. Children with persistent sinusitis should see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist to learn about possible treatment options.

Treatments for infection

A sinus infection will usually clear up on its own. The treatments listed below can help people feel better as their bodies heal.


This drug helps you breathe easier by shrinking enlarged blood vessels in your nose. They are available as a tablet or a nasal spray.

Nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days in a row, as they can cause congestion to return. Decongestant use in youngsters should be closely monitored by a doctor.

These medications can cause blood pressure to rise. People with high blood pressure, as well as those with heart disease or diabetes, should consult a doctor before taking a decongestant.

Pain relief

Some drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, and ibuprofen, reduce fever and ease headaches and other unpleasant symptoms of sinusitis (Motrin, Advil).

Aspirin products should not be given to newborns, children, or teenagers because they raise the risk of Reye syndrome, an uncommon but deadly condition.

Sprays containing steroids or corticosteroids

Swelling in the nasal passages is reduced with these sprays. Over-the-counter steroid sprays are available. Others require a doctor’s prescription.

Steroid sprays can help with congestion in some people, but they aren’t always successful. Side effects from steroid sprays include headaches and nosebleeds.


These drugs are used to treat sinusitis caused by bacteria. Nonetheless, Depending on the medicine, a doctor can prescribe an antibiotic course that lasts anywhere from 3 to 28 days.

Always finish an antibiotic course. Stopping antibiotics too soon can render bacteria resistant to their effects in the future, which can make recovery more difficult.

If sinusitis symptoms persist after a few months, doctors may recommend surgery to open up the sinuses or remove any obstructions.

Natural and home remedies

These natural and home therapies may also aid with symptom relief:

  • Rest: Your body will fight the infection if you stay at home and rest until you feel better.
  • Fluids: Water, clear broth, and other fluids can aid in the removal of mucus and the prevention of dehydration.
  • Nasal saline: A natural way to unclog congested nasal passages is to use a nasal spray prepared from saltwater solution. It will aid in the removal of mucus, thereby easing congestion. A neti pot can be used to apply a saline solution on occasion.
  • Humidifier: At night, use a cold steam humidifier to keep your sinuses from drying out.

Thing to avoid

Stay away from somebody who appears to have an infection to avoid getting sick. Hands should be washed often, and the eyes, nose, and mouth should not be touched.



Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.