Tips for Parents: What’s the Difference Between a Cold and Sinus Infection?

Nurture Kids Pediatrics

Tips for Parents: What’s the Difference Between a Cold and Sinus Infection?

Summer will soon be gone and fall weather will bring changes in temperature, molds and ragweed to the environmental. Mix in some back-to-school mingling and you’ll end up with a set of symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever, which could be caused by a common cold or a more severe sinus infection.

How to tell the difference?

The July issue of AAP News ( discusses some helpful tips to help parents decide when and if they need to visit their pediatrician. Colds are caused by a virus. Sinusitis occurs when the infection is produced by a bacteria and it usually follows a viral cold, but it may also present after persistent, severe, allergy symptoms. In other words, a sinus infection can happen any time we have large production of mucus inside the nose and we have difficulty draining it.

Colds produce a runny nose with mucus that starts clear and then becomes cloudy or colored. Colds may include a fever that lasts one to two days, but symptoms improve on their own in 10 days.

There are three types of sinusitis:

Persistent: Runny nose, daytime cough (can worsen at night) or both last for 10 days and do not improve.

Severe: fever over 102.2 degree F – lasts for at least 3 days in a row. Mucus is thick and cloudy or colored.

Worsening: A cold starts to improve, but fever returns or daytime cough or runny nose gets worse.

Children with persistent sinusitis may be observed to see if they improve on their own, or they may take antibiotics if they are particularly uncomfortable. All kids with severe or worsening symptoms should take antibiotics to help them recover faster.

Like any medication, the use of antibiotics may produce side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, skin rash, allergic reactions and yeast infections. Your pediatrician will provide advise and use his/her experience to decide the best course of action. Whenever you have a question about your child’s illness, talk to your pediatrician.