Is that Pesky Cold Actually a Sinus Infection?

Achoo! There it is again. The dreaded common cold. Or is it? Colds and sinus infections have many similar symptoms that make it hard to self-diagnose. It’s important to understand the difference between a cold and a sinus infection so you can know when to seek treatment.

The 411 on the common cold

The common cold is a virus. While it will leave you posted up in bed coughing and sneezing, a cold typically gets better on its own in 10 days or less. Common cold symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Stuffy nose
  • Mucus buildup
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen sinuses
  • Fever

How to treat a cold

The best way to treat a cold is to get plenty of rest, eat foods that help boost your immune system and drink lots of fluids. Many people also find relief by using a neti pot – a small pot filled with a mixture of salt and distilled water that flushes out your sinuses by going in one nostril and out the other.

Do I have a sinus infection?

Thirty-one million people in the United States suffer from sinus infections annually. Unlike a cold, a sinus infection, or sinusitis, is caused by a bacterial infection and often requires antibiotics. A sinus infection occurs when the sinus is unable to drain properly. If the mucous membrane becomes swollen enough to close the opening, it blocks off the oxygen to the sinus, which can lead to an infection. Common sinus infection symptoms include:

  • Sinus pressure behind the eyes and the cheeks

  • A runny, stuffy nose that lasts more than a week
  • A worsening headache
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Bad breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Postnasal drip
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sense of smell

How to treat a sinus infection

There are many things you can do to ease the symptoms of a sinus infection, including:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating food that will boost your immune system
  • Using a humidifier
  • Placing a warm compress on your face to relieve pressure
  • Taking over-the-counter decongestants
  • Irrigate the sinuses with saline

What happens if you leave your chronic sinusitis untreated?

While sinus infections typically clear up on their own, chronic sinusitis can lead to other health conditions if not addressed. Some complications include difficulty breathing, damage to the olfactory nerve, which could result in the loss of smell, loss of vision if the infection spreads to the eye, meningitis or infection to skin and bones.

The best course of action is to visit an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. Our expert care team at Sierra Nevada Ear Nose & Throat is here to help find the right solution for you. Call  (775) 883-7666 to make an appointment today.