Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection

Font Size

Ever get a sinus infection following a bad cold? It's called sinusitis. After a cold, you are at greater risk of developing a sinus infection, because a cold causes inflammation and swelling of the sinuses. While sinusitis and cold symptoms can make you miserable, they are common problems and affect millions of Americans each day. Here's up-to-date information about sinusitis and colds.

What Is a Common Cold?

The common cold, an upper respiratory infection, is usually caused by a virus that infects the nose and throat.

Common cold symptoms include nasal congestion; runny nose; post-nasal drip, which is a drop-by-drop release of nasal fluid into the back of the throat; headache; and fatigue. Cough and mild fever may also accompany these symptoms.

Cold symptoms usually build, peak, and slowly disappear. No treatment is necessary for a cold, but some medications can ease symptoms. For example, decongestants may decrease drainage and open the nasal passages. Pain relievers may help with fever and headache. Cough medication may help, as well. Colds will typically last from a few days to about a week or longer.

In some instances, a cold may cause swelling in the sinuses, preventing the outflow of mucus. This can lead to a sinus infection. If you have sinus pain -- pain around the face and eyes -- and thick yellow or green mucus that persist after a week, then you should see your health care provider to determine if you have a sinus infection.

What Is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection is inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. Normally, your sinuses are filled with air. When the sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria can grow there and cause infection. This infection is sinusitis.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?

Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Thick, yellow, foul-smelling nasal discharge
  • Pressure or pain around the face and eyes
  • Headache (generally in the forehead area)
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • A cold that won't go away or gets worse
  • Fever or cough

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be seen with a cold. But if they continue for more than 10 days, you may have sinusitis.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
cold weather
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Article
Boy holding ear
Slideshow
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
woman with fever
Article
 
Waking up from sleep
Article
woman with sore throat
Slideshow