Sinus & Allergy

When does a cold/flu become a sinus infection?

written by CC ENT Team

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.

Colds do not actually cause sinus infections, but they provide a breeding ground for the viruses or bacteria that do. When you’re congested from the cold, your sinuses can’t drain. Every time you touch your nose, you bring more bacteria to your sinuses that then stay there and multiply.

You should look for the following symptoms:

  • Sinus pressure behind the eyes or cheeks
  • 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

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

If your symptoms are particularly bad and you just want to feel better, specialist ENT doctors, like those at Collin County ENT, can perform sinus irrigation to ease your symptoms while you wait for the antibiotics to take over.

If your sinus infection does not go away with a full course of antibiotics, you should see an ENT specialist. In addition, if you seem to get sinus infections over and over again – we can help!

Sources:

Our clients' stories

We find our patients’ experiences the most rewarding part of the job. Without them, we wouldn’t be one of the longest standing ENT practices in the area!

“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

Crystal S. user icon

“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

Stan B. user icon

“Dr. Matheny performed 2 surgeries on my wife, both were successful with great results. He is not only a great surgeon, but a great person. It was a pleasure working with him. One of the best doctors we have ever seen in our lives.”

Mehrdad M. user icon
Make an appointment