What Causes The Common Cold
A cold is caused by any one of several viruses that causes inflammation of the membranes that line the nose and throat. It can result from any one of more than 200 different viruses. But, the rhinoviruses causes most colds.
The common cold is very easily spread to others. It’s often spread through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by the sick person. The droplets are then inhaled by another person. Colds can also be spread when a sick person touches you or a surface that you then touch.
Contrary to popular belief, cold weather or being chilled doesn’t cause a cold. However, more colds do occur during the cold season . This is probably due to a variety of factors, including:
Schools are in session, increasing the risk for exposure to the virus
People stay more indoors and are in closer proximity to each other
Low humidity, causing dry nasal passages which are more susceptible to cold viruses
The Dos and Donts of Easing Cold Symptoms
At the first sign of cold symptoms, you may look to stock up on any number of remedies. But what actually works? While there is no cure for the common cold, there are some proven ways to treat your symptoms. Heres a guide to what works and what to avoid.
How Do I Know If I Have Symptoms Of A Common Cold
Dr Aragona says: if youre sneezing, have a runny or blocked nose and a high temperature with no other symptoms, then its likely a cold. N.B. here: sneezing and a runny nose are not typically symptoms of COVID-19, so this should put your mind at ease.
However, he warns that some symptoms do overlap. For example, you can develop a cough when you come down with a cold, although do note that this is usually more of a wet mucus cough than a dry one.
Another key difference: your cold symptoms will usually peak by the second, third or fourth day, at the latest, whereas the COVID process is far more lengthy and dragged out.
Symptoms of a common cold include:
- a stuffy and runny nose
- a slightly raised temperature.
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- your forehead
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection Vs A Cold
While the symptoms may be similarrunny nose, headache, fatiguethere are some differences between the two conditions that can help you determine which one you have.
The main difference between the symptoms of a cold and sinus infection is how long they linger. Dr. Bhattacharyya says cold sufferers typically have a runny nose for two to three days, followed by a stuffy nose for two to three days. After that, most people begin to feel better. The CDC notes that the following symptoms are common with colds:
- Mucus dripping down your throat
- Watery eyes
Alternately, sinus infections usually last a bit longer than a common cold, and may hang around for seven days or more. A fever may also signal a bacterial infection. As Lord can attest, sinus infections are sometimes accompanied by a low-grade fever, while colds typically are not. Other viruses do cause fevers, however. Here’s what the CDC says about the other symptoms of sinus infections:
- Runny nose
- Mucus dripping down the throat
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Another potentially helpful sign is the color of your nasal discharge. Unlike colds, which generally produce clear mucus, bacterial infections can produce greenish or yellow mucus. However, viruses sometimes produce colorful discharge as well, so this isn’t considered a fail-safe test.
Cold Vs Flu Vs Sinus Infection: Which Is It
Typical cold symptoms include
- Swollen sinuses, congestion, and mucus buildup
Cold symptoms last for around a week, on average. Colds most often start with a sore throat , followed by nasal and congestion issues. A cough often comes after, around the fourth or fifth day. Children are more likely to develop a fever with a cold, but adults can develop a slight one. Colds are contagious during the first few days and are less severe than other infections like the flu.
How to treat it: A cold is a virus, so it cant be treated by antibiotics. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms, like a headache or congestion. Plenty of rest and fluids will help your body recover. If you dont see symptomatic improvement after a week, you should see your physician to ascertain whether you might need medical treatment for a different type of infection.
Typical flu symptoms include
- Chest discomfort or cough
- Sneezing, sore throat, stuffy nose
While many colds will emerge gradually, the flu usually hits you like a ton of bricks. Soreness and muscles aches are common, as are headaches, high fevers, and general malaise.
Typical sinus infection symptoms include
- Sinus pressure
- Runny or stuffy nose for a prolonged period
- Bad breath
- Poor sense of smell
Symptoms Of A Cold Vs The Flu
The flu and the common cold are both caused by a virus. The flu comes from one of four types of influenza viruses , while colds may come from many different types, one of the most common being rhinoviruses.
The cold and the flu have very similar symptoms, says Troy Madsen, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Utah. But there are some key differences that can help you tell them apart:
Types Of Sinus Infections: Chronic Vs Acute
There are four types of sinus infections. These classifications depend on the length and frequency of the infection:
- Acute sinusitis.This type of sinus infection lasts only for a short time, defined by the American Academy of Otolaryngology as less than 4 weeks. This short-term infection is usually part of a cold or other respiratory illness. It may also be caused by a bacterial infection .
- Subacute sinusitis. A subacute sinus infection lasts between 4 and 12 weeks .
- Recurrent acute sinusitis. An acute sinus infection is considered recurrent if the infection returns four or more times within a year, with each infection lasting 7 days or more.
- Chronic sinusitis.Chronic sinus infections last for more than 12 weeks or continue to recur.
Many sinus infection symptoms are common in both acute and chronic forms. Seeing a doctor is the best way to learn if you have an infection, find the cause, and get treatment.
For cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, these symptoms last at least 10 days without improving, or they worsen within 10 days after seeming to improve. In this case, its important to talk with a doctor, such as a general practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat doctor , to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Learn more about the symptoms of a sinus infection below.
Is Fever A Cold Or Flu Symptom
Fever is less likely to accompany a common cold. If there is a fever, it is usually mild. Children may be more likely to have a fever as a common cold symptom. Head cold symptoms do not usually make you feverish.
On the other hand, with the flu, most people will experience a fever of 100-102 degrees or higher, especially children. However, not everyone will develop fever as a flu symptom.
What Is A Sinus Infection And Is It The Same As Sinusitis
A sinus infection is an infection of the sinuses caused by a virus, bacteria, or rarely fungi.
Technically, sinusitis is an inflammation of the delicate membranes that line the sinuses, which may be caused by an allergy, a virus, bacteria, or rarely fungi. When membranes are inflamed they swell up and become red. Sinus infections always have sinusitis as a symptom.
Sore Throat And Hoarse Voice
Postnasal drip can leave you with a raw and aching throat. Although it may start as an annoying tickle, it can get worse.
If your infection lasts for a few weeks or more, mucus can irritate and inflame your throat as it drips, resulting in a painful sore throat and hoarse voice. Frequent coughing and throat clearing can make a hoarse voice worse.
How To Tell The Difference And What To Do About It
It’s no fun coping with the stuffy, dripping head congestion of a winter bug. But how do you know if you’re fighting a common cold or a sinus infection? “The symptoms can overlap, and it can be hard to tell the difference,” says Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an otolaryngologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Cold Flu And Allergy Treatments
Millions of people use over-the-counter products to relieve symptoms of cold, flu, and allergy, including nasal stuffiness and congestion, sneezing, runny noses, sore throat, and cough. The common causes of these symptoms include the viruses that cause the common cold, influenza virus, allergic rhinitis , and sinus infections . Viral infections can also cause headache, body aches, fatigue, and sometimes fever. Hay fever symptoms can also include itchy eyes, nose, and throat, and watery eyes.
To benefit from OTC products for cold, flu, and allergy, it is important to understand the condition causing the symptoms, the predominant symptom one wishes to relieve, and the active ingredient in the product. Some OTC products contain a single active ingredient medication to relieve one symptom. Many others contain a combination of two, three, and even four active ingredient medications to treat several symptoms at once. Selecting the right product can be difficult at times.
The Difference Between Covid
Cough, cough. Sniff, sniff. I dont feel good, your kid says. Uh-oh, you think. Could it be COVID? Its a normal reaction. Although , wearing a face covering, social distancing and frequently washing your hands are the best ways to and limit the spread, theres still a possibility that you or your child may become infected.
Childrens Hospital Colorado pediatric infectious disease specialist , says that although flu and common cold symptoms can be similar to , there are some important differences to know:
- COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the influenza virus and other respiratory viruses. The delta variant makes it even more contagious.
- COVID-19 causes more serious illness in some people than the flu.
- It takes longer before people show symptoms of COVID-19, and people can be contagious for longer. Thats why testing, quarantine and isolation are so important.
- Theres a flu vaccine that is readily available and easily accessible. Though the Food and Drug Administration has authorized for emergency use , we’re still working to vaccinate most of the adult population and waiting on additional data from studies in kids younger than 5.
Even with these differences in mind, its challenging for any parent to sort through the symptoms. Seasonal allergies, wildfire season, poor air quality and an off-schedule cold and flu season only increase confusion.
It Is The Flu Or A Sinus Infection
What is the difference between the flu and a sinus infection? A sinus infection affects primarily the sinuses and most of the symptoms tend to focus on the middle part of the face, where the sinuses are. Actually, the most telling symptom to help you make the difference between the flu and a sinus infection is the fact that a the latter causes a feeling of fullness, tenderness, pressure or even pain in the middle of the face. The flu produces more general symptoms affecting most of the body, including often severe aches and pains, fatigue or even fainting.
Sneezing from the sinus inflammation, loss of smell and taste, bad breath and earaches are more common with sinus infections, whereas chest discomfort and coughing occur more often with the flu. Coughing with a sinus infection is on-and-off and more likely an effect of postnasal drip, when mucus from the nose drips down the back of the throat . Fever and congestion are overlapping symptoms. Both the flu and acute sinusitis can last for 2-4 weeks, but chronic sinusitis can easily last for 2-3 months.
Sinus Infection Vs Cold: How To Tell The Difference
June 14, 2021 Written by: Michael Menachof Categories: Sinus
Dr. Menachof, MD, has specialized in conditions around the head, throat, ear, nose, neck and face for over 20 years, and was the first to bring sublingual allergy drops to Colorado in 2005. He has been recognized as a Fellow by multiple academies, named one of Americas Top Facial Plastic Surgeons continually since 2003 and is featured in multiple national publications.
When youre feeling sick, it can be tough to tell whether you are struggling with a sinus infection or simply have the common cold. The symptoms of these conditions can be very similar, but there are important differences between the two and they must be treated differently in order for you to find relief.
When Should I Call The Doctor About My Cold Or The Flu
If a person develops trouble breathing, has a severe sore throat, has a cough that produces green-colored mucus, has chest pain, or develops a high and persistent fever, that person should be seen by their doctor. If you suspect you have the flu and are pregnant, are over 50, have a weakened immune system for any reason, or have ongoing medical problems such as diabetes, you are at higher risk for developing complications due to the flu and should contact your physician. If you have a child under 2 years of age or have a friend or relative living in long-term care facility with flu-like symptoms, their doctors need to be notified.
When To See A Doctor For Cold Or Flu Symptoms
Most cold and flu infections arent dangerous, but both colds and the flu can result in complications, such as pneumonia, especially for people over 65 or younger than two, Madsen says. It can also be more dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and those with chronic lung disease.
Here are some signs that you may need medical attention:
- Shortness of breath.If youre having difficulty breathing you should go to the emergency department for a chest X-ray to look for pneumonia, says Madsen.
- Severe weakness.If its becoming difficult to perform daily tasks due to this weakness you may also need to go to the emergency department for laboratory testing and IV fluids, Madsen says.
- Abnormal fever.If your fever resolves and then after a day or two comes back, that could mean a bacterial infection on top of the influenza, Curry says. Bacterial infections like a sinus infection often require prescription antibiotics, so its important to talk to your doctor.
- Persistent pain. Sinus, throat, or ear pain that starts suddenly or doesnt get better after a few days can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
- Lingering cough. If you have a cough that continues for more than a week after your other symptoms go away, this can also be a sign of bacterial infection.
- You arent getting better. Most people recover from the flu within two weeks, so if youre still sick after this time, you may want to call your doctor.
Taking The Right Medication For The Right Illness
The best thing to do for cold or sinus symptoms during the first seven to 10 days is to treat the symptoms, not the illness. You can do this with medications such as:
- Cough medicine
- Pain reliever
Cold viruses dont respond to antibiotics, so taking them during the first seven days probably wont help. In fact, taking antibiotics when theyre not needed can increase your risk for being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or other serious antibiotic related problems.
After seven to 10 days, when the symptoms are more likely to indicate a sinus infection, it may be time to ask your doctor about antibiotics. However, sinus infections can and do sometimes go away on their own, just like colds. Ask your doctor if you need an antibiotic or if the infection is likely to go away on its own without medication.
If your symptoms point to allergies, many effective medications are available over the counter to control symptoms, such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. These medications work on all sorts of allergies because they suppress the bodys reactions to allergens, rather than treating the specific allergen. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, however, so be cautious of that when taking them. They also do not help stuffiness or pressure symptoms, so adding a decongestant plus a pain reliever as needed can help you ride it out.
When A Sinus Infection Wont Go Away
While its true that sinus infections sometimes clear on their own, antibiotics can sometimes shorten their duration.
Talk with your doctor if your symptoms dont subside within 10 days or if you have persistent fevers, facial swelling or neck stiffness. As with colds, make sure you hit the sheets and get enough rest and drink your H2O. Proper hydration and nasal irrigation can ease sinus infection symptoms.