Is it a cold or sinus infection? Here’s some advice to sort it out and treat nagging, pounding sinus pain.

Finding relief from sinus pain

Image Sinus Pain Image Sinus Pain Image Sinus Pain

If you are congested, feel your face throbbing and have a fever, your symptoms could be more than the common cold. You could be suffering from a sinus infection.

Sinuses are small air-filled cavities located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose. Sinuses are located behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks and eyes.

What Do Our Sinuses Do for Us?

Mucus in the sinuses traps dust, germs and other particles in the air. Tiny hair-like projections sweep mucus toward openings leading to the back of the throat. Then mucous is swallowed.

If nasal tissues become inflamed, for example, because of allergies or a cold, the sinuses can be blocked, trapping mucous. The stagnant mucous can be a breeding ground for viruses, bacteria and fungus.

Do I Have a Cold or Sinus Infection?

Symptoms of sinus infections (sinusitis)  include:

  • Nasal stuffiness and congestion
  • Discolored mucous (green)
  • Facial tenderness under the eyes or at the bridge of the nose 
  • Headaches
  • Teeth pain
  • Coughing, fever and fatigue
  • Bad breath 
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue

Cold symptoms peak at three to five days and then improve and disappear in seven to 10 days. Colds start with clear, water nasal discharge. The mucous can then become thicker but becomes clear and dries up.

Those with allergies and asthma can be more susceptible to a sinus infection. Nasal and sinus passages become swollen, congested and inflamed while trying to rid the body of particles causing allergies.

Unlike a cold, sinus infection can be caused by bacterial infections and require treatment of an antibiotic. An infection of the sinus cavity close to the brain can be life threatening if not treated because it can spread to the brain.

How is a Sinus Infection Treated?

Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Antibiotics
  • Nasal decongestant sprays for a few days only
  • Antihistamines to block allergic reactions
  • Topical nasal corticosteroids: Prescription medication spray that prevents and reverses inflammation and swelling in nasal passages and sinus openings.
  • Nasal saline spray

People with persistent sinus infections may require surgery.


Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Rhinologic Society, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology