Is It a Cold or a Sinus Infection?

Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2022
The main difference between cold and sinus infection is the duration or number of days the symptoms were persistent
Common colds usually produce clear mucus, while a sinus infection may yield green or yellow mucus.

The main difference between cold and sinus infection is the duration or number of days the symptoms were persistent:

  • A common cold may typically run its course within 10 days, but sinus infections may last longer than 10 days.
  • Another key distinction between cold and sinus can be noted through nasal discharge. Common colds usually produce clear mucus, while a sinus infection may yield green or yellow mucus.
  • Common colds and sinus infections may not seem serious, but if left untreated, they can both progress and lead to long-term health complications. If symptoms are severe or last longer than 14 days, immediate medical intervention may be required.

What are the symptoms and treatments for cold?

A cold or common cold is a viral infection. It affects the upper respiratory system, which includes the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. The common cold is a self-limited contagious disease. It is the most frequently occurring viral infection in the world. It is usually caused by a virus group called rhinoviruses. The common cold is spread either by direct contact with infected secretions from contaminated surfaces or by inhaling the airborne virus after the infected individuals sneeze or cough. A few days after the virus sets in, the patient may experience cold symptoms:

Treatment for cold:

Usually, the body defends itself automatically against the virus, and this immune response usually clears up the symptoms within a week or 10 days. There is no cure, but the symptoms may be eased through over-the-counter (OTC) medications. It should be noted that antibiotics do not work for the common cold because a virus usually causes a cold. Common treatment therapies or remedies include:

  • Taking OTC medications, such as Tylenol/acetaminophen or ibuprofen according to the label instructions, may help in relieving fever, headaches, and body aches.
  • Cough syrup often includes antitussive agents, designed to suppress coughing or expectorants that can loosen mucus in the throat and may help treat symptoms of a cold.
  • Some studies show taking zinc tablets or a diet enriched with zinc may build up a stronger immune system to fight the cold virus.
  • Nasal steroid spray like Flonase (fluticasone) along with nasal irrigation, such as neti pot, helps thin the mucus and flush out the congestion. This can be done with a mix of distilled water and salt.
  • Drinking plenty of warm water. Using honey in warm water can help soothe sore, scratchy throats, and suppress cold symptoms.
  • Getting sufficient rest.


Which illness is known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection? See Answer

What are the symptoms and treatments for a sinus infection?

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, is a condition in which the delicate membranes that line the sinuses may get swollen and become red. Sinusitis may be caused by allergies, viruses, bacteria, or rarely a fungus. A bacterial sinus infection has the most severe symptoms. Very few cold symptoms (only 5-10%) can turn into sinus infections. Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Persistent bad breath along with cold symptoms
  • A cough that lasts more than 10 days without improving
  • Persistent fever
  • Pressure or pain between or around the eyes
  • A severe headache that is felt behind or around the eyes that worsens on bending over
  • Pain in the teeth of the upper jaw that may feel like a toothache
  • Nasal congestion and a discolored discharge
  • A reduced sense of smell
  • Fatigue

Treatment for sinus infection

  • It is often recommended to visit a doctor for treating a sinus infection.
  • Doctors may usually prescribe generic antibiotics like Amoxicillin or cefdinir to stop the growth of or kill bacteria to resolve a sinus infection.
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and Medrol (methylprednisolone), may improve sinus drainage by reducing inflammation of the sinuses.
  • Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, may be prescribed if sinus infections are caused by allergies. Antihistamines may help clear up sinusitis by reducing or stopping an allergic reaction.
  • Decongestants, such as Afrin nasal spray, may help in reducing swelling, pressure, and congestion of mucus in the nasal passages.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may help reduce symptoms associated with a sinus infection. It helps relieve pain, swelling, and fever.
  • A warm compress over the nose and forehead may also relieve sinus pressure.
  • Home remedies are similar to home remedies for colds.
Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2022
Is It a Cold or Sinus Infection? (