DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s the time of year when many folks are walking around with a nose that’s either stuffy, runny or all of the above. So how do you know if it’s a cold or a sinus infection?
A cold is due to a virus, while a sinus infection is bacterial. A cold could spring up overnight, while a sinus infection (which often starts as a cold) will take a while to develop, according to Dr. Michael Benninger, a head and neck expert with the Cleveland Clinic.
“If you got an upper respiratory tract infection or a cold; if you’re not getting better by about ten days, particularly if your mucus is getting thicker; you’re feeling even more run down; then it is probable the you’ve actually developed a bacterial sinus infection.”
If you find yourself suffering from a sinus infection, Dr. Benninger says your first reaction shouldn’t be to rush to get an antibiotic because there is concern about resistance. Instead, he said first try steroid nasal sprays, zinc lozenges and nasal irrigation systems, which can greatly reduce the length and the intensity of both colds and sinus infections. Additionally, antibiotics don’t cure viral infections, such as colds. So taking them would be pointless in curing your sickness.
Ask yourself these questions to tell the difference: Colds and sinus infections share similar symptoms (runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, chest congestion, watery eyes, fatigue, headache) so knowing which one you have isn’t exactly easy.
1. How long have you had symptoms? Cold symptoms peak after three to five days and then improve over the next week. A sinus infection can stick around longer. If you have a runny nose, stuffy nose or sinus pressure that lasts for more than 10 days, suspect an infection.
2. Do you have sinus pressure? If you have persistent facial pain, pressure or tenderness, you may have a sinus infection.
3. What color is your discharge? If you have clear mucous, you probably have a cold. If you have yellow or green mucous, it’s probably a sinus infection.
4. Do you have bad breath? If your breath has you reaching for a piece of gum, you could have a sinus infection.
If you’re still unsure, you can always schedule an appointment with your doctor.