Not All Sniffles Are The Same

Ever wondered what the difference is between a cold and a sinus infection?


It happens every year. The runny nose, sinus pressure and maybe even a low-grade fever. So, is it a cold, sinus infection or maybe even allergies?

While all three present similar overall symptoms, knowing which one it is can help you recover faster and receive the medications or treatments you need. In short, the main difference is the duration of your symptoms.

Common colds are usually accompanied by a nasal discharge that begins clear and watery. It can become thicker with a white or yellow color as the cold progresses. Cold symptoms are most severe between three and five days and typically clear up in a week. Some of the symptoms to look for in a common cold are:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Swollen sinuses
  • Excess mucus
  • Fatigue

A sinus infection, sometimes referred to as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, is an inflammation of the lining of your nose. Because many of the symptoms overlap with a cold, the biggest sign that it's an infection is the duration of symptoms. Bacterial sinus infections often linger over a week or more. Some of the symptoms to look for in a sinus infection are:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sinus pressure behind the eyes
  • Runny and/or stuffed up nose
  • Cough
  • Thick yellow or green mucus
  • Fatigue

You can relieve some of the symptoms for both ailments by trying some of these popular methods. When in doubt or if the symptoms last more than a week, always seek a medical professional.

  • Neti pots
  • Warm compress
  • Hydration and steam
  • Nasal sprays: Both steroid and antihistamines
  • Oral antihistamines: Pseudoephedrine has shown to be effective.

It’s easy to get care when you need it

If you’re not feeling well, you can turn to Fairview Clinics. With same-day appointments and 24/7 scheduling, we make it easy to get care at more than 40 clinics throughout the metro. Just call 855-FAIRVIEW anytime, or request an appointment online. You also can get care from our online clinic anytime for minor illnesses like a sinus infection at

Related Articles