Cold or Sinus Infection

If you have a stuffy nose or a cough, it can be hard to tell if you have a sinus infection, a cold, or the flu. These conditions share some key symptoms, but they do have some differences as well. For example, facial pain is a common symptom of a sinus infection, but is rare with a cold or the flu.

Is It the Common Cold or a Sinus Infection?

The symptoms of a cold and a sinus infection can be quite similar to each other. This is because the same viruses often cause both conditions. Also, because the nose and sinuses are connected, it is possible for viruses to move easily between the nasal passages and the sinuses.
 
Not all colds affect the sinuses. However, it is quite uncommon for the sinuses to be infected with a virus and not have the nasal passages also affected -- hence the reason that a person with sinusitis not only has symptoms around the sinuses but also in the nasal passages.
 

Comparing Cold Symptoms vs Sinusitis and Flu Symptoms

The following table lists some key symptoms that the common cold, flu, and sinusitis share -- along with some key differences.
 
Symptoms
Cold
Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)
Flu
Fever
Rare
Viral sinusitis -- Occasionally; lasts for about two days
 
Bacterial sinusitis -- High temperature (greater than 102ºF or 39ºC) common
Characteristic, high (102ºF to 104ºF); lasts three to four days
Stuffy nose
Common
Common
Sometimes
Runny nose
Common (discharge can be thin or thick)
Common (discharge is often thick and colored)
Sometimes
Facial and/or tooth pain
Rare
Common
Rare
Headache
Rare
Sometimes
Prominent
General aches, pains
Slight
Sometimes
Usual; often severe
Fatigue,
weakness
Quite mild
Sometimes
Can last up to two to three weeks
Extreme exhaustion
Never
Rare
Early and prominent
Sneezing
Common
Less common
Sometimes
Sore throat
Common
Sometimes
Sometimes
Chest discomfort, cough
Mild to moderate; hacking cough
Mild to moderate; worse at night
Common; can become severe
Decreased sense of smell or taste
Rare
Sometimes; more common with chronic sinusitis
Rare
 
5 Tips to Keep a Cold at Bay

Sinusitis (Sinus Infection) Information

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