Colds are common. Sinus infections are rarer and more serious.
“Common colds typically go away within a few days or a week,” says Matthew B. Schumer, MD, family medicine physician at Saint Francis Medical Center. “If your symptoms linger or worsen after 10 days, you might have a sinus infection.”
The symptoms of a sinus infection, or sinusitis, are similar to those of a cold, but are typically more severe: nasal obstruction; thick yellow or green discharge; headaches and facial pressure; coughing; and fever. If not treated properly with antibiotics and other medications, the infection can last for weeks.
“Anything that blocks your sinuses, from a deviated septum to congestion from a cold, can cause bacteria to grow, which can allow your sinuses to become inflamed and infected,” says Schumer. “If the condition becomes chronic, surgery might be needed to restore proper drainage.”