Do I have a sinus infection?

Time saver 2 min read

Sneezes, coughs, stuffy head and fever. Yep, it’s that time of year when “something” is going around. You figure it's just another cold, right? Maybe not. The problem could be your sinuses.

So which is it? The symptoms aren’t always clear and it can be hard to figure out if it’s a sinus infection or a cold. Here’s a guide to help you tell the difference:

Sinus Infection Cold
Duration 9 - 14 days 5 - 7 days
Congestion In face In chest
Coughing Sometimes Sometimes
Facial pain Usually Not likely
Fever First 1-2 days Sometimes
Headache Behind eyes Mild
Loss of smell Usually Not likely
Mucus Thick Runny
Sore throat Not likely Sometimes
Stuffy / Runny nose Usually Usually
Tooth pain Sometimes Not likely
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Symptom Myth

Colored mucus – whether green, yellow, or something in between – doesn’t tell us if a sinus infection is viral or bacterial. It does indicate that your body’s immune system is fighting something.

All symptoms point to a sinus infection

Even when all signs suggest you have a sinus infection, it’s still a good idea to get a diagnosis to help determine if it’s a viral or bacterial infection.

Viral sinus infections are most common, and usually stem from a viral infection like the common cold. In this case antibiotics won’t help because they don’t, and can’t, attack viruses. Instead, treatment includes a blend of over the counter medications, in a safe dosage and combination, to bring you relief while your immune system fights the virus.

Bacterial infections are less common overall, but more likely if your symptoms continue to worsen and stick around for more than 10 days. Treatment for a bacterial infection often includes an antibiotic.

For either type of infection, reducing the pain and pressure are the key steps to getting you back to 100%.

Relief from the pain & pressure

Pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. Package instructions will recommended guidelines for general pain management, but it’s important to check with your care provider. They can recommend a different dosage or frequency that’s still safe to bring you maximum relief.

Reducing the sinus pressure by clearing your sinuses will keep the infection from getting worse. Home remedies like steam therapy, Neti Pots and drinking plenty of fluids can help. In addition, medications such as expectorants and nasal sprays may be recommended to thin the mucus and reduce inflammation.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s a sinus infection, cold, or allergies. We’ll ask questions to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

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