Sinus Infection vs. Cold

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Difference between Sinus Infection and Cold

Two of the most common respiratory ailments have to be the sinus infection and the cold. People tend to confuse the two and may not always tell them apart clearly. This could be due the shared symptoms and that both are associated with nasal congestion, headache and discomfort. The good news is that most of the forms of the cold and the sinus infections can simply fade away by themselves in time.

Sinus Infection


The sinus infection is actually the inflammation of the cavity that surrounds the nasal region. The inflammation could be due to allergies, infections or autoimmune complications. Sinus infections may be dangerous due their proximitiy to the brain and the possibility that other more serious conditions may be causing the infection.

A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus. The major viruses that cause it are the rhinoviruses and the coronaviruses. An untreated cold could lead to sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat or croup. Colds generally aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and lung diseases.


The symptoms that could help diagnose the sinus infection are quite a number. First of all, one could experience headaches or facial pains especially around the nasal cavity. At times, these pains tend to worsen whenever one is lying down or is sleeping. The sinus infection is usually accompanied with a thick nasal discharge that is greenish. In worse scenarios, the discharge could be accompanied with pus or even blood. The sinus infection might also be accompanied with migraines. Symptoms may also include visual disturbances, seizures, personality changes and hallucinations.

The cold has a different set of symptoms. For a milder case, one might experience a cough, sore throat, running nose and even nasal congestion. For a more sever cold, one may experience symptoms more common with flu such as muscle aches, headaches and fatigue but the experience is less intense than the actual flu. One may also start shivering and even lose one’s appetite if it sticks around too long. The cold will leave the body in about a week but symptoms are known to stick around for up to 2 or 3 weeks.


There are several causes that might lead to the sinus infection or increase one’s susceptibility to it. The most common cause is usually allergies. Once in contact with allergens especially those that are air borne, the sinuses become inflamed. There are also some abnormalities that might increase the risk factors for the sinus infection. Some of these include a deviation of the septum and a sinus opening that is very small. There are also some genes and cystic fibrosis which make one susceptible to the infection. Second hand smoke is another common cause.

The cold is mainly caused by viruses such as the rhinoviruses. Most of these viruses can be easily transmitted from person to person through droplets of saliva or even air that is being breathed out by an infected person. Other methods of contracting a cold can be eliminated by constant hand washing after touching common surfaces or using disinfectant hand cleaner before touching food or any area of the face.

Similarities and Differences

  • Both the cold and sinus infections are bothersome respiratory disorders which affect almost everyone at some time or other.
  • A sinus infection might be difficult to avoid when the cause is genetic or structural.
  • The cold can be prevented by avoiding breathing air that could be potentially virus laden, washing one’s hands constantly and using hand sanitizers freely.

Which condition is do you get more often?
  • Sinus Infection
  • Cold

Discuss It: comments 1

  • Guest
  • Larry S. wrote on January 2015

Where is the side by side comparison chart?

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