This time of year, you can never be too sure whether that cough and congestion are from a cold or a sinus infection. In 2021 in particular, there’s the added concern that the symptoms could be thanks to COVID-19. If you exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus, you should be tested right away in order to stop the spread. But if your test comes back negative, the next step is to figure out what the underlying problem really is.
Is It a Cold?
The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. The most common is from a family called rhinoviruses, which account for about 40% of all colds. The easiest way to catch a cold is through close personal contact, like at Earth Fare in Charleston.
Symptoms of a cold usually peak within two to three days then begin to improve with rest and hydration. Possible symptoms include:
- Stuffy/runny nose
- Sore throat
- Postnasal drip
Is It a Sinus Infection?
A cold virus or allergies can cause inflammation of the sinuses, known as sinusitis. If this inflammation traps bacteria-infested mucus, it is called bacterial sinusitis or a sinus infection. Bacterial sinus infections generally require antibiotics.
A sinus infection may be either acute or chronic. Acute sinus infections typically only last two to four weeks, though they can last longer. Sinus infections lasting 12 weeks or more are considered chronic.
Sinus infection symptoms include:
- Facial pain/pressure
- Nasal congestion
- Poor sense of smell
- Pain in the jaw/teeth
The Difference Between a Cold and a Sinus Infection
The ways to tell whether you have a cold or a sinus infection are the duration and pattern of symptoms.
According to Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, otolaryngologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, “One is that the symptoms of a cold or viral sinusitis traditionally begin to improve after three to five days. The symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection tend to dwell, lasting longer than 10 days without improving… If symptoms of what you thought was a cold last longer than 10 days without improvement, then that may very well be a sinus infection.”
In addition, if your symptoms start to improve after a few days, then take a turn for the worse, it indicates that the cold has turned into a bacterial sinus infection. This is known as double worsening.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Charleston ENT & Allergy today.