You wake up coughing and congested and just feeling lousy, but how do you know if it’s a sinus infection or the common cold you’re suffering from? Regardless of what you’re suffering from, it’s important to take whatever steps you can to feel better. In some cases, medical care is required and it’s best to seek help as soon as possible before your symptoms get worse.
You’re coughing and sneezing, now what?
Whether you’re experiencing the common cold or a sinus infection, you’re not feeling your best. But here’s some good news, help is available! In Florida, Restore Health offers convenient walk-in health care in Palm Bay, seven days a week — no appointment necessary!
Upon examination and any necessary tests, we can determine whether you’re suffering from a cold or an infection, as well as what to do next. Colds, flu, infections, and other non-life-threatening symptoms can be treated on-site thanks to our laboratory services, digital imaging, and X-rays. We use the most current technology to treat your entire family, usually within 15 minutes of check-in!
In the meantime, let’s discuss exactly what a cold is as well as what it means to have a sinus infection. Then, we’ll share some ways to tell the difference between the two, as well as what you can do to feel better.
If you’re curious about the difference between a cold and the flu, we also discuss that topic in this post.
The common cold
The common cold is a viral infection that typically affects the upper respiratory tract and primarily the nose. It spreads from person to person through drops in the air from sneezing or coughing, but it can also be picked up off of shared surfaces.
Signs and symptoms of the common cold can typically be seen within two days of exposure.
The common signs of a cold include nasal discharge, nasal congestion, coughing, sore throat, and headache. Nasal discharge tends to be white or light. A mild fever and body aches may also be present. Symptoms usually subside within 10 days to two weeks, with the worst of them passing within the first five days.
Sinus infection or sinusitis
One reason the common cold and a sinus infection can be confused with one another is that so many of their symptoms overlap. Like the common cold, a headache, nasal congestion, fever, coughing, and sore throat may be present.
However, there are some symptoms that typically accompany a sinus infection that aren’t likely with a cold. These include bad breath, facial pain and pressure, pain in the upper jaw and teeth, and a thick yellow or green nasal discharge.
While the common cold tends to pass within two weeks, a sinus infection can last from two to four weeks, and symptoms tend to be more severe. In some cases, chronic sinusitis can last for more than three months.
Sinus infections typically show up after a cold, even though a cold is caused by a virus and a sinus infection is caused by bacteria. This is because your nasal passages and mucous membranes swell when you have a cold, and this stops them from draining properly. Bacteria then begin to grow within the trapped mucus, which can ultimately lead to sinusitis. Other conditions that lead to trapped bacteria, including nasal polyps, can also lead to sinusitis.
Do I need antibiotics?
If you’re experiencing the common cold, antibiotics aren’t going to alleviate your symptoms. Antibiotics kill bacteria, and since the cold is caused by a virus, there is no cure.
However, you can take care to treat individual symptoms as they arise. This includes taking nasal decongestants, cough drops, or over the counter pain relievers. Getting plenty of rest, fluids, and healthy foods is also important.
Sinus infections, on the other hand, can be treated with antibiotics. In some cases, sinus infections will pass on their own, but it’s important to speak with your doctor about the best course of action for your infection.
Like the common cold, there are also steps you can take to ease the severity of your sinus infection symptoms. In serious cases, prescription painkillers may be required. Other times, over the counter medication will do the trick. There are also over the counter and prescription steroid or corticosteroid sprays that can be used to shrink the swelling of the nasal passages.
Stopping the spread
There are steps we can all take to help stop the spread of viruses and infections. First and foremost is proper hand washing with soap and water. Avoid contact with those who are sick as much as possible, and regularly disinfect surfaces in your home. Finally, avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, especially until after you’ve washed your hands.
When to go to urgent care
If you suspect you require medical attention for your symptoms, don’t wait to seek help. In Palm Bay, you can visit Restore Health Urgent Care seven days a week without an appointment to get help fast.
If symptoms of a cold persist for more than two weeks, seeking medical care at an urgent care center or with your doctor is recommended.
Call your doctor right away if you experience:
• Persistent wet or dry coughs
• A fever over 103º F
• Shortness of breath
Seeking medical help for these symptoms is advised no matter what the suspected cause is.
Restore Health Urgent Care provides a variety of services that can save you a trip to the emergency room for non-life-threatening situations. In addition to many non-life-threatening illnesses, we can treat injuries like minor broken bones, sprains and strains, animal bites, and much more. We also offer additional services like adult vaccines, laboratory testing, X-rays, physicals, and flu shots.
Since the end of 2019, people around the world have been on high alert about the coronavirus. While there have been no reported cases in Florida, we also share critical information on the signs and symptoms of coronavirus infection in this blog post.