Natural Health Journals

The Difference between a Cold and a Sinus Infection

By Jamell Andrews

Sometimes, trying to tell the difference between a simple cold and a sinus infection can be difficult. For many people, the symptoms are quite similar, and the overall feelings that are associated with these conditions make it a bit challenging for many people to tell the difference.

To complicate matters, the common cold routinely morphs into a full-scale sinus infection, particularly in people who are unlucky enough to have a cold that just seems to go on and on. The longer and more severe a cold is, the more likely it is to eventually turn into a sinus infection.

Symptoms of a Cold
There are a variety of symptoms that usually occur with a cold. For most people, they include the following.

  • Feeling tired and run-down
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post nasal drip

Some people also have a cough or headache, but the symptoms are not usually severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. Basic colds will generally last for up to seven days.

Symptoms of a Sinus Infection
More than 30 million Americans suffer from sinus infections every year, according to health experts. People typically feel quite miserable when they have sinus infections. The most commonly experienced symptoms include the following.

  • Pain or pressure behind the cheeks or eyes
  • Post nasal drip
  • Tooth pain (particularly the top teeth)
  • Headache
  • Congestion
  • Nasal drainage/mucus that is yellow or green
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose

The majority of people who have sinus infections also report feeling fatigued, have difficulty sleeping, and experience a decrease in their ability to smell.

Recognizing the Difference
Colds generally only occur once a year, last for about a week, and then they are gone. When people start experiencing what they believe is a cold once a month (or more frequently), they are probably suffering from chronic sinus infections.

  • Sinusitis, or sinus infections, can occur in three different forms.
  • Chronic – symptoms last longer than 12 weeks
  • Acute – symptoms normally last fewer than four weeks
  • Recurrent infections – four or more occurrences of sinusitis within a year. These are usually caused by bacteria or viruses

It is important to remember that even though a simple cold may make you feel miserable for a few days, they do not last for an extended period of time. If you start experiencing cold-like symptoms for longer periods of time, then you should make an appointment with your doctor for an exam.

One way to help keep your sinus cavities free of bacteria is to use a nasal saline solution on a regular basis. These solutions wash out the nose, and people who use them regularly have reported a remarkable decrease in the number and frequency of sinus infections.

More serious cases of chronic sinus infections may eventually require surgery to adjust the size of the sinus cavity. For people who have suffered from sinus infections that seem to recur with a great deal of frequency, this can be a welcome solution that provides them with long-term relief.

Sources Used
1. “Tell-Tale Symptoms of Sinusitis.” CBS News. Accessed 21 February 2010.
2. “Is it a Cold or Sinus Infection? How to tell the Difference.”,,20251789,00.html. Accessed 21 February 2010.
3. “Is it a Cold or a Sinus Infection?” Accessed 21 February 2010.

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