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It’s terrible being sick. When you’re an adult, you still have a full load of obligations and responsibilities that aren’t going to stop just because you have the sniffles. You feel low, exhausted, like you can’t pick up your head, it’s so heavy. But are you suffering the symptoms of the common cold, or is it something worse?

A sinus infection can manifest like a cold at first, but it will persist and may require medical attention. It’s the worst not knowing if you should make an appointment with a doctor, or if you are just under the weather and fatigued from a virus. Understanding the similarities and differences will help you decide whether you can let your immune system work through it, or if it’s time to turn to a physician. Here are the symptoms and treatments for both.

Common Cold

A healthy adult may contract up to four colds a year. A cold is a virus, and while you can manage the symptoms, you cannot cure a cold with antibiotics or other medications. You simply must get as much rest as you can, stay well-hydrated, and do your best to expectorate the mucus. Hot steamy showers or humidifier mist can mitigate your congested nose and head. A saline solution may help the nasal passages clear more quickly. Hot tea with honey and lemon can soothe the throat and may break up some of the gunk in your lungs.

But having a healthy immune system is really the best defense. When your body is well-nourished it can combat the virus more efficiently and you will get better faster. Eat lots of fruit, fiber, and vegetables every day; don’t smoke cigarettes, get a consistent eight hours of sleep every night, and keep your body moving. Even if you are very conscientious about your wellness, a cold can still turn into a sinus infection, and these typically must be treated by a doctor.

Sinus Infection

A sinus infection occurs when the sinus lining becomes inflamed. It is uncomfortable, and your face may appear swollen and your head heavy. When mucus trapped in your sinus passages can’t drain, it creates the perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive, and you develop an infection. Distinctive symptoms of a sinus infection are green or yellow nasal discharge, unpleasant breath, achy teeth and sinus pressure.

You can ease your symptoms by flushing the nasal passages with drops or a Neti Pot, and drinking fluids. In some cases, a sinus condition will clear up on its own. But many adults, especially those with a compromised immune system and the elderly, need to seek professional attention to be properly diagnosed and prescribed the appropriate medication. If you have been suffering from a stuffy nose, hacking cough, and headache for more than a week, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Seek the help you need, take medicine when necessary, and get better, faster.

When you feel unwell, it’s good to know what kind of sickness you are dealing with. Take time to consider your symptoms, and see a doctor if you are at all concerned your cold is really something more serious. We at Abella Health are always here for our patients, and we want to address any concerns you have about your health, from chronic conditions to a lingering cold. Always ask for help when you need it.