Video anchor 3.JAN.2019 2 MIN READ | 2 MIN READ
Cold or sinus infection?

Is that sniffle more than it seems?

Dr David Chin, ENT surgeon at Parkway East Hospital, explains the differences between the common cold and a sinus infection.

The symptoms do cross over

  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough

But here's how they differ:

Colds Sinus infections
• Symptoms only last a few days • Usually last more than 10 days without improving
• Symptoms build, peak and disappear • Cause pain and pressure in the face
• Tend to produce clear or light-coloured mucus • Tend to produce thick yellow or green mucus
• Usually don't cause a fever • Often cause a fever
• Often have other symptoms like fever, body aches and sore throat  
• Can lead to sinus infections  

What causes them?

Colds Sinus infections
• The common cold is a virus • Sinuses are air-filled spaces in your skull
• There are more than 200 types • When your sinuses are inflamed, bacteria breeds
• The rhinovirus causes 50% of colds • This can lead to bacterial sinusitis
• Your body's immune response triggers your symptoms • A cold or allergy can cause a sinus infection

Preventive measures to take

  • Avoid triggers like dust and pollen where possible
  • Wash and sanitise your hands regularly
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Quit smoking

Treating a cold or a sinus infection starts the same

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink extra fluids
  • Inhale steam
  • Use a nasal rinse

But if you have a fever, or if your symptoms are unmanageable or last longer than a few days, consult a doctor.


Infographic reviewed by Dr David Chin, ENT surgeon at Parkway East Hospital


DerSarkissian, C. (2013, July 30) When A Cold Becomes A Sinus Infection. Retrieved December 7, 2018 from

Martin, L.J. (2018, July 9) What Is Sinusitis? Retrieved December 7 2018 from

Ratini, M (2015, July 1) Is It A Cold Or A Sinus Infection? Retrieved December 7 2018 from

Ratini, M (2017, March 22) What Causes Cold Symptoms? Retrieved December 7 2018 from