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QUESTION: Is it Cold or a Sinus Infection?



Flu Virus | QUESTION: Is it Cold or a Sinus Infection? | Freatured

When you have a runny nose, fever and cough and feeling run down, it can be hard to tell if it’s a common cold or something more serious like a sinus infection. Before you take time out of your busy schedule for a trip to the doctor’s office for antibiotics, here are a few things to consider.

Spotting the difference

Cold symptoms vs. sinus infection symptoms:

  • Congestion with a runny nose
  • Yellow-green mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Persistent fever
  • Cough
  • Cough that does not resolve
  • Low fever
  • Facial, ear and/or tooth pain
  • Mild body aches
  • Headache
  • Swelling around the eyes

The main difference between a cold and sinus infection is the duration of symptoms. Colds typically last five to 10 days, while a sinus infection can last much longer.


While colds are common, less than one in 15 become a bacterial sinus infection. Both colds and sinus infections can take time to clear up. Because a cold is a viral infection, you need to let it run its course prescription medicine will not shorten the length or severity.A fever is the body’s fight against the cold virus and can last a day or two. The mucus that comes out of your nose may start clear and become cloudy. Cold symptoms should improve in about 10 days.

Sinus infections

Unlike colds, sinus infections are bacterial and can remain in the body for three weeks or more.

If you’re diagnosed with a sinus infection, your pediatrician may prescribe an antibiotic to help you recover faster.

Non-prescription relief tips:

  • Rest: Laying low and taking a break from sports or other activities will help you fight illness.
  • Pain relievers: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help bring down a fever and relieve headaches or other body aches. Use aspirin with caution, as it can increase the risk of a rare, but serious, condition called Reye syndrome.
  • Fluids: Water, clear broth and other fluids can help flush mucus, relieving congestion and preventing dehydration. Go easy on sugary drinks like juice, soda and sports drinks.
  • Nasal saline: Using nasal spray with a saline solution or a neti pot with a sterile water and saline solution can naturally help remove mucus, relieving congestion. For infants, using a nasal aspirator, such a nose frida, can help with congestion.
  • Humidifier: A cold mist humidifier at night helps prevent sinuses from drying out. Do not use hot mist humidifier as it can be a burn risk. Be sure to clean out humidifiers often to prevent bacteria and mold growth.

When to see the medical professional:

Although colds will resolve themselves and many sinus infections will too, it is important to see your doctor if you have a:

  • Persistent cough
  • Fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Vomiting Prevention

Remember, germs spread easily. Stay away from people who are sick, if possible. To prevent colds and sinus infections, encourage kids to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth.

Whenever you have a question regarding your well-being, it’s always best answered by your pediatrician.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the region’s only independent health care system dedicated solely to the health and well-being of children.

© (c) Copyright 2019, Conley Publishing Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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