The cold, winter months are inevitably upon us.
Unfortunately, this means the onset of the cold and flu season. Some people are also prone to sinus infections during the wintertime. Winter proves to be the premier time for individuals to get sick more easily. This can be chalked up to many reasons, like the cold weather or close quarters indoors to avoid that weather.
Approximately 5-20 percent of the United States’ population gets sick with the flu virus every year, while millions of others in the country are diagnosed with sinus infections.
Both diseases have similar symptoms, making it difficult to tell the difference between the two until you’ve become more ill. So, how can you be sure if you’re in the early stages of the flu or a nasty sinus infection?
Here are some telltale signs and symptoms that distinguish the two illnesses:
Symptoms of Influenza:
- Body aches
- Fever higher than 102˚
- Flushed color in your face
- Low energy
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Sore throat accompanied with a dry, irritating cough
The flu usually settles in the respiratory system, producing symptoms similar to pneumonia, croup, a cold, and bronchitis.
Sneezing and a runny nose is NOT common symptoms of the flu virus. On average the flu lasts about 5-7 days, but a couple of minor symptoms may linger for a week or two, such as fatigue, achiness, and your cough.
Symptoms of a Sinus Infection:
- Pressure along your nasal passages, including your jaw or teeth
- Yellow to Green colored nasal mucus
- Nasal congestion
- Eye Pressure and pain
- Coughing, but usually in the evening
- Sore Throat
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Fatigue and sickly feeling in general
- Runny nose
- Pain in the face, especially when leaning over
A sinus infection can be from a cold or allergies that were not treated promptly. In rare cases, some individuals complain of a low-grade fever and earaches.
Sinus infections usually last much longer than the flu and can linger for up to eight weeks. Although many of the symptoms of the sinus infection are very similar to that of influenza, a person may not recognize them immediately. That’s because these symptoms are more subtle and build up over time.
Now, it still might seem difficult to differentiate between the two disease. You’re unlikely to pull out a checklist every time you feel ill during the winter, comparing those irritating symptoms.
Instead, you can ask yourself a few questions to quickly decide if it’s the flu or sinus issues.
Do I Have a Fever? – While you may experience a mild fever with a sinus infection, even that’s a rare occurrence. Meanwhile, the flu will cause a spike in your temperature.
Where is My Pain? – Aches come with both viruses, but are much more focuses with a sinus infection.
The flu spreads muscle aches throughout the body. A sinus infection causes pain in the face, jaw, throat and sinuses. A cough may come with both illnesses, but those with sinusitis usually only cough at night.
Do I Have Sinus Congestion or a Runny Nose? – You might unfortunately might have to take a close look at your mucus for this question.
That yellow or green mucus is a surefire sign of a sinus infection. Accompanied with facial pressure and discomfort, this can easily tell if it’s sinusitis or not.
How Long Have I Been Feeling Sick or Fatigued? – The flu might hit you strong, but it likely won’t last for a long time. The virus usually only takes a week to pass.
A sinus infection, on the other hand, can linger for weeks. The level of fatigue also differs, with a much lower energy level for the flu.
Am I Dizzy or Nauseated? – Another symptoms that can be found in both viruses, the flu is often far more severe.
This applies with many of the shared issues for these viruses. A sinus infection may last longer, but the flu with prove stronger.
As soon as you are feeling ill, ask yourself these questions to help determine if it’s the flu or a sinus infection. If you are still having trouble pinpointing the illness on your own, seek the professional advice of your healthcare provider.
Written for Passport Health by Sabrina Cortes. Sabrina is a freelance writer with a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgian Court University. She currently lives in the Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina.