Cold or a Sinus Allergy? What’s the Difference?

Cold or a Sinus Allergy? What’s the Difference?

June 26, 2019

Your runny nose has necessitated a “have tissue, will travel” approach to your daily life. What is causing the annoyance and what’s the best way to treat it?

Unfortunately, colds and sinus allergies have very similar symptoms, but different suggested treatments. Here’s what you need to know about what’s driving your tissue usage.


What is it?

A cold is a virus. In fact, there are more than 100 types of cold viruses- which is why each of your colds may differ in symptoms and severity. The average adult catches a cold two to three times per year.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of a cold are a cough, sore throat and a runny, stuffy nose. Fevers and body aches can also result from colds.

How is it spread?

Colds are contagious and are spread through coughing, sneezing, and touch.

How long does it last?

A cold lasts on average 7 to 10 days. (Colds lasting longer than that may have worsened into an infection.)

How is it treated?

Since it is a virus, a cold is not treatable and must run its course. The medications utilized in conjunction with a cold (decongestants, pain relievers, cough and cold medicine) are those to alleviate the symptoms. Natural remedies, such as gargling with salt water, using a humidifier and drinking plenty of fluids, may also help.

Sinus Allergy

What it it?

When your immune system has an adverse reaction to certain substances, it triggers the release of chemicals called histamines, which are intended to fight off the perceived threat, but also cause the allergy symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include everything from sneezing, runny nose and sore throat (caused by postnasal drip) to coughing and congestion. Rashes and itchy eyes may also occur.

How is it spread?

Allergies are not contagious.

What causes it?

While allergies can be seasonal, many individuals are allergic to substances (such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, mold and food) that they encounter year round.

How long does it last?

Without treatment, the symptoms of your allergy may continue until the original trigger is removed.

How is it treated?

Allergies can be treated. One of the most common medications are antihistamines which block histamine reactions to allergens. If sinus congestion occurs, your doctor may prescribe a decongestant for a short period of time. (Using decongestants over a long period of time may cause the congestion to worsen.)

Does a cold or a sinus allergy cause sinus infections (or sinusitis)?

Either a cold or a sinus allergy can lead to a sinus infection by causing a build up of mucus in the sinus cavities. Symptoms of sinusitis may mimic those of a cold but also include thick yellow or green nasal discharge and pressure or tenderness around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead.

Knowing what is causing your symptoms is the first step in getting rid of them. If you believe you are suffering from allergies, it is important to work with a doctor to establish a comprehensive plan for combatting them. Otherwise, your sniffles may be sticking around.

Palm Beach Sleep and Sinus, under the direction of Mark T. Agrama, MD, is dedicated to the medical and surgical treatment of adult sleep, sinus and nose disorders. State of the art diagnostic protocols such as Home Sleep Studies, Laboratory Sleep Studies, Nasal Endoscopy, Video Flexible Laryngoscopy, Video Stroboscopy, Sleep Endoscopy, and CT Scan Imaging help us analyze our patient’s condition.

Our mission is the optimization of Sleep and Sinus health for our patients using a comprehensive and individualized plan designed for long-term success. To discuss your sinus issues, please contact us online or call us today.