Sinus & Allergy

When does a cold/flu become a sinus infection?

written by Becki Andrus

Everyone knows the dread of feeling like a cold is coming on. You eat more oranges than you have all year, but sure enough, you’re sick. Now you have been sick for days… maybe weeks? You forget what it’s like to breathe normally. What you thought was a cold might now be a sinus infection (sinusitis), so how do you tell?

Both a cold and sinus infection have some things in common, but there are ways to tell them apart. We have included a handy chart at the bottom of this article so you can get the right treatment the first time.

What is a cold exactly?

The common cold can be caused by many different types of viruses. Although it can be annoying, it’s usually harmless outside of people with weakened immune systems.

Most people can expect to recover from a cold in 7 – 10 days. Signs and symptoms might include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sneezing
  • Slight body aches
  • Mild headache

When should I be worried about a sinus infection?

Sinus infections can be much more difficult to get rid of. While a cold tends to naturally go away in a week or so, sinus infections may require medication or a doctor visit to clear up. When cold symptoms last greater than seven days, a sinus infection may actually be the cause.

You should look for the following symptoms:

  • Sinus pressure behind the eyes or cheeks
  • Tooth pain
  • A worsening headache
  • Runny, stuffy nose lasting longer than a week
  • A fever
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Thick yellow or green mucus from your nose
  • Fatigue

How to treat a sinus infection

Most acute sinus infections will go away on their own after a short course of antibiotics.

If your sinus infection does not go away with a full course of antibiotics, you should see an ENT specialist. At Collin County ENT, we have a CT scanner in the office that can help identify the problem. In addition, we office minimally invasive office procedures and more involved surgery (if necessary) to help resolve symptoms. Schedule an appointment today!


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