Do you have a Sinus Infection, a Cold, or Allergies?

Posted on: July 26th, 2017 by Our Team

Do you have a Sinus Infection, a Cold, or Allergies?

More often than not, patients or even doctors are not in a position to tell the difference between a cold, a sinus infection or an allergy. This is simply because the first symptoms to manifest in all these three conditions are quite similar.

For an example, a common cold usually lasts less than a week. If it persists beyond this, it is obviously an infection or an allergy. This means if you experience the common symptoms we just mentioned beyond seven days or if they are triggered by certain conditions in your surroundings, you could be suffering from a sinus infection or an allergy. For these illnesses, you will need proper diagnosis and treatment for quick relief. Knowing the condition you are suffering from not only helps you to get the right intervention, but it equips you to prevent a reoccurrence.

Let’s analyze each condition individually, to get to know the differences between them:

Common Cold

A common cold is a viral infection and is the most common of the three. Annually, it affects more than 1 billion patients. There are numerous viruses that cause common colds, however the most frequent is rhinovirus, which affects up to 40 percent of patients. This is followed by coronavirus, which affects about 20 percent of patients. Others include respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza virus. Common cold spreads fast through contact, either directly or indirectly, with an infected person.

Common symptoms

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Mild headache

Distinct Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Aching or a feeling of discomfort in the muscles

Treatment and Recovery Period

Symptoms of common cold should disappear within a week. However, for relief from the symptoms and comfort to the entire body, you can take painkillers to relieve headaches, sore throats and fever, decongestants to clear congestion, and a cough syrup will do.


Allergies are also common, affecting 30 percent of  adults and 40 percent of children each year. While common colds are caused by an exposure to virus, allergies are caused by an exposure to allergens. Some common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Plants
  • Dander from pets and other animals
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Food
  • Stings from bees and other insects

Allergies are caused when your body’s immunity fights off perceived allergens by releasing histamines. Because there are different types of allergies, symptoms will largely depend on the type of allergy one is suffering from. However, nasal allergy is more similar to cold and sinus, so it will be proper to discuss its symptoms.

Common symptoms

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing

Distinct Symptoms

  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling of illness or fatigue

It is important to note that one distinguishing factor between allergies and the rest is that fever is not among the symptoms caused by allergies.

Treatment and Recovery Period

How long an allergic condition lasts depends on whether it is caused by indoor or seasonal allergens. Allergies caused by indoor allergens tend to affect people throughout the year. However, some over-the-counter medications, like antihistamines, can be used to block off the histamines that are released. Decongestants can be utilized to clear the nasal-ways. Nasal sprays help to reduce inflammation in the nasal passage. In addition, eye drops for itchy and watery will offer great relief from symptoms of allergy. When symptoms persist even after using over-the-counter medication, it is best to seek the intervention of a doctor for prescribed medication.

Most importantly, if you already know the allergens you react to, you need to take the necessary precautions to prevent allergic reactions.

Sinus Infection

A sinus infection occurs when sinuses get blocked causing an accumulation of fluid., which become a breeding ground for bacteria and/or viruses later on. As a result, the sinuses begin to swell. Other conditions causing a sinus infection include colds, asthma, and allergies.

The result is an uncomfortable fullness or aching in the middle of the face.

Common Symptoms

  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Post nasal drip

Distinct Symptoms

  • The stuffy nose is accompanied by thick, colored mucus
  • Pain around the forehead, eyes and cheeks
  • Yellowish green mucus
  • Tooth ache
  • Fever and headache

Treatment and Recovery

A sinus infection should clear within ten days. If symptoms become unbearable, some over-the-counter painkillers, decongestants, antihistamines or nasal irrigations will help relieve the symptoms. See a doctor for an antibiotic prescription if a sinus infection extends beyond ten days.

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