Symptom overlap can make it difficult to determine if you have a sinus infection (sinusitis) or COVID-19. These problems are compounded when we spend long hours indoors due to weather or quarantines.
“While both can cause fever, headache, stuffy nose and sore throat, there are some differences between the two,” said Melinda Cooling, vice president of Advanced Practice for OSF HealthCare and executive clinical director of OSF OnCall.
Sinusitis versus COVID-19
A sinus infection, or sinusitis, occurs when air-filled pockets in the face, called sinuses, fill with fluid, inflaming the lining of the sinuses and preventing them from draining. Trapped mucus can allow bacteria to grow, leading to infection, the chill said.
Although you can get sinusitis year-round, it tends to accompany cold and flu seasons during the fall and winter months.
“During those months, people spend more time indoors with allergens,” Melinda said. “One difference is that sinusitis tends to take longer, around 10 days, to develop into a bacterial infection, while COVID-19 appears more quickly.”
Symptoms of a sinus infection
Common symptoms of sinus infections can include:
- Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than seven to 10 days
- Complaints of a drip in the throat from the nose.
- Facial pain or pressure
- Bad breath
- Throat pain
- Swelling around the eyes, worse in the morning.
“COVID-19 causes more dry cough, loss of taste and smell, and generally more respiratory symptoms,” Melinda said. “Sinusitis causes more discomfort to the face, congestion, a runny nose and facial pressure.”
Symptoms of COVID-19
Common symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can include:
- Body pain
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Fever or chills
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- New loss of taste or smell
- Shortness of breath or shortness of breath
- Throat pain
“The symptoms may be similar, but there are subtle differences. That is why it is important to limit your exposure to other people if you have any symptoms, ”said Melinda. “Once you have identified the cause of your symptoms, you can resume your daily activities.
“The most important advice at this time is to stay within your household and limit exposure.”
What you can do
Melinda recommends using only trusted resources, such as the CDC, OSF HealthCare, or your primary care provider, whenever you have questions or concerns about a disease.