Common Cold or Sinus Infection? 5 Telling Signs to Know the Difference

cold or sinus infection

Your countertop is covered in empty tissue boxes, messy disarray of cough drop wrappers, and fluorescent-colored liquid medications.

Still, nothing seems to get rid of your fever, or stuffy nose, or that persisting pressure around your cheeks.

The reason those medications aren’t working: it’s not just a cold. Recognizing whether you have a cold or sinus infection can save you—or a sick loved one in your care—before the virus gets worse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if over-the-counter medications aren’t relieving a fever higher than 100.4 °F, and your symptoms are getting more intense, it’s time to see a medical professional.

Here are five simple signs to determine whether you have a cold or sinus infection.

1. The Symptoms Are Lasting Longer

If your symptoms are persisting beyond four days, it’s likely not a cold. Here are the different symptoms.

Cold Symptoms

Symptoms of a cold can include:

  • A cough
  • A low-grade fever
  • A sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Stuffy nose

Sinus Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of a sinus infection can include:

  • A cough
  • A fever
  • Pressure around the cheeks and eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus/a stuffy nose

If you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as a high fever, body aches, and respiratory problems, you may have the flu. Learn about the difference here.

While the symptoms for determining whether you have a cold or sinus infection overlap, sinus infection symptoms are often more severe. There are a few indicators to help you recognize the difference.

2. Pressure Headaches

A headache paired with pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead may indicate a sinus infection.

You may also notice the pain or tenderness feels worse when you bend forward.

3. Localized Pain

Symptoms grouped in one area of the body such as the head and nose also indicate a sinus infection over a cold.

4. Your Symptoms Make a U-Turn

If your symptoms disappear, only to make an unwanted reappearance shortly thereafter, you may have a sinus infection.

Please see a doctor if you experience reoccurring symptoms before a bacterial infection develops.

5. Nothing’s Working

While you can treat cold symptoms with over-the-counter drugs, sinusitis symptoms require antibiotics.

If cold medicine, nasal drops, and cough drops aren’t working for you, it may be time to see a doctor for a prescription.

According to Mayo Clinic, complications of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Meningitis
  • Infections spreading
  • Partial/complete loss of smell
  • Vision problems 

Don’t wait out the symptoms. It’s time to fight off this infection for good.

Determine the Difference: Cold or Sinus Infection?

If those over-the-counter medications aren’t relieving your symptoms, it’s time to shove them aside and speak with a doctor.

Don’t risk the chance that your sinus infection could worsen over time. A medical professional can provide the antibiotics you need to fight the infection once and for all. 

Still not quite sure if you have a cold or sinus infection? Contact us today — we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.