It has been a hard year to stay healthy here in the Pacific Northwest. From stuffy noses to sore throats, it is easy to dismiss our symptoms as “just a cold.” Yet, all too many of us know that the common cold can quickly escalate into something more—a sinus infection.

A sinus infection is caused by inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. When healthy, our sinuses are filled with air. When they become blocked, however, they fill with fluid that soon becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which can result in a sinus infection (also known as sinusitis).

With many overlapping symptoms, it difficult to distinguish a sinus infection from a cold. If you are on the fence, consider these three factors:

Factor #1: You Have Experienced Symptoms for More than a Week

A cold generally goes away in seven to 10 days—anything longer and you are likely suffering from something more. Many of our patients describe their symptoms as a cold that won’t go away, and instead, continues to get worse. Like a cold, a sinus infection can involve a runny nose and congestion. Sinus pressure, headache, and an overall lack of energy area also symptoms of a sinus infection. A fever is usually an indication of something more than a cold.

It is not uncommon for a cold to develop into a sinus infection. In fact, 90 percent of acute sinus infections are caused by a virus such as the common cold. While it is hard when you are feeling under the weather, try to pay attention to your symptoms and how long they last.

Factor #2: You Are Experiencing Pressure or Pain Around Your Face

Extreme facial pressure, especially when centered around the nose and in between the eyebrows, usually means that you have a sinus infection. Facial pressure may also be accompanied by a headache that is typically felt towards the center of the forehead. Other pains may include a stiff neck or you might find that your upper teeth hurt.

Factor #3: You Are Experiencing Unpleasant Nasal Discharge

While no one wants to look into their used Kleenex, the consistency and color of your nasal discharge can tell you a lot. Thick, yellow or green, and foul-smelling nasal discharge is a sign of a sinus infection. Clear or watery discharge is more likely a cold, allergies, or other nasal ailment. Another lovely side effect of a sinus infection is particularly bad breath.

Feel Better at NW Face & Body

While there are a number of at home remedies that may help you temporarily feel better, a sinus infection cannot be cured without the help of a medical professional. Let our team of nasal professionals at Northwest Face & Body help you feel your best when you schedule an in-depth sinus consultation.