Sinus Infection vs Cold: Similarities, Differences, Treatments, More

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Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. Sinuses are small air-filled cavities inside the nose. They are lined with mucous membranes and have a few tiny openings called Ostia, which lead to the outside of the nose.

When something irritates the nose, such as a virus or a bacteria, it triggers an immune response in the body. This leads to short-term symptoms such as pain and a strong urge to sneeze in most people.

However, some people’s immune system reacts too strongly and can cause sinus infection symptoms to occur. This article compares and contrasts sinus infection vs cold.

Read on to learn more about what makes these conditions identical in symptoms but very different from each other.

The leading cause of sinusitis is an infection with viruses or bacteria in the nasal passages. These bacteria multiply rapidly under low levels of moisture and warmth.

Most commonly, it is caused by rhinoviruses, which usually cause symptoms for only a few days each year but can sometimes persist throughout winter (i.e., be a perennial virus).

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Sinus Infection vs Cold: Similarities and Differences

Sinusitis is often confused with a common cold. However, the symptoms of a cold are usually not as severe and do not last nearly as long as those of sinusitis.

The direct contrast between the two is that a cold causes congestion in only one or two airways, while sinusitis affects all four airways.

Also, a cold typically begins with a fever, while sinusitis does not.

Can sinus infections feel like a cold?

Sometimes, a person experiences symptoms that could be attributed to both sinusitis and a cold. For example, the first sign of a cold is often nasal congestion or stuffiness.

This can cause what some people experience as a sinus headache or pain in the forehead, eyes, and cheeks.

People with runny noses may also experience what they think is sinus pressure or headache.

When this happens, it’s essential to determine which condition you’re experiencing and then take appropriate action.

Sinus Infection vs Cold: Symptoms

Sometimes, you can experience common cold symptoms when you have a sinus infection. Understanding the difference between the two conditions is essential before moving to treatment.

First off, what kind of symptoms do you have? If you see any of these symptoms and they don’t pass within 24 hours, then consult your physician because it’s most likely either an infection or allergy:


-Pain above the eyebrows

-Pain in the bridge of your nose and above your cheekbones

-Sore throat

-Bad breath

-Sensitivity to light (because this symptom can be caused by inflammation in the eye)

-Sensitivity to sound (because this symptom can be caused by inflammation around the ears)

Sinus Infection vs Cold: Which is worse?

The annoyance of a common cold is more tolerable than the aches, fatigue, and pain that come with sinusitis.

A cold is not as severe as sinusitis, but it can still be discomforting for some people. It can leave someone feeling miserable and debilitated for days on end.

Sinusitis symptoms are typically worse in individuals with underlying conditions like allergies or asthma and those who are also experiencing seasonal allergies.

Most of the time, colds are much easier to treat because they often resolve in a few days without any long-term complications.

Sinus Infection vs Cold - Differences

How long do sinus colds last?

The duration of a cold may vary depending on how the body responds. In general, sinus infections last for about 7 days on average.

The duration of a sinus infection depends on whether or not you have underlying health issues that could be contributing to it and other factors such as age, weight, and environmental conditions.

The average time for symptoms to last is about 2 weeks, with some experiencing symptoms for up to 3 months.

A cold commonly last between 1-3 days but can persist longer than this if there are complications.

What medicine is best for sinus colds?

Your doctor recommends non-sedating antihistamines and decongestants when you have a sinus infection. If the cold persists for over two weeks, your doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter nasal steroid.

If these medications don’t help, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics or another drug to fight the infection.

If your symptoms are severe, you may need to remain in the hospital for IV fluid and pain therapy to clear up the infection quickly.

What are the stages of a sinus cold?

A sinus cold is basically a viral infection that causes inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose.

When a person has a sinus headache or pain, they can usually assume they have a sinus infection.

Many people experience this type of headache during their first episode of boating and sporting events, where excessive breathing inflames the sinuses and leads to post-traumatic headaches.

Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, congestion, pain, pressure in the head and neck, nasal discharge, dry eyes and mouth, and cough with yellow phlegm.

A constant sneezing or itchy nose accompanies the symptoms.

Is a sinus cold contagious?

A cold is not contagious. Most commonly, a virus causes it to happen. It is only transferable if the virus has already been passed on to you by someone else.

So, are sinus infections contagious? No, because this condition forms through the nose and not through infection outside the body.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes, a hot bath can be beneficial for a sinus infection. It provides a moist environment that can help relieve pain and inflammation.

Additionally, the heat from the bath can help ease symptoms by opening up your nasal passages. Using a nasal spray or rinse before a bath is also beneficial because this will help to get the water into your nasal passage.

However, keeping your head above water during the bath is vital so you don’t swallow any water. This can lead to severe complications such as breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

Additionally, it is recommended that you stay in the bath for only five minutes at a time and then allow your head to come above water before you reenter.

This will let your body gradually acclimate to the bathwater’s heat and moisture.

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses (also called the nasal cavity). There are two main types of sinus infections: acute and chronic.

Acute sinusitis happens when a virus or a bad bacteria infects the sinuses and causes inflammation. This causes pain and pressure in the sinuses. Chronic sinusitis is when a virus or a harmful bacteria keeps infecting the sinuses over and over again, causing inflammation and damage.

You can treat both chronic and acute sinusitis with antibiotics. Rash or pain in the face are classic signs of sinus infection; however, they can occur with other conditions, too, so see your doctor if they persist or worsen despite treatment.

One of the most straightforward methods to get rid of a sinus cold fast is to rest in bed, preferably with a hot water bottle on your chest if possible.

This will help clear your mind so that you won’t be thinking about your symptoms. The other tip is to drink plenty of water, which will help flush out any dry mucous build-up in your nose.

Either of these two tips alone is likely to relieve your symptoms, but when combined, they can speed up the healing process.

As well as this, you should take painkillers if required and try to eat something soothing, like soup or some hot sweet food.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.