What’s the Difference Between Allergies, a Common Cold, and a Sinus Infection?


(gentle piano music) – Hello, my name is Dr. Tran, and I’m an ear, nose and throat doctor. One of those common questions that I get in my sinus and allergy
practice is definitely, what’s the difference between allergies, a common cold and actual sinus infection that needs antibiotic therapy. I would say that the main difference is really the duration of symptoms and the type of symptoms. So typically a cold will
come on fairly quickly. It’ll peak out in about one to three days. And patients will feel a lot better in about five to seven days. The symptoms are typically characterized by a lot of nasal
congestion, thick drainage, maybe discolored, fevers,
just overall malaise. But patients are a lot
better in five to seven days without antibiotic therapy. Then, when it come to differentiating that from let’s say a bacterial sinus infection that might need antibiotics,
it’s really the duration. The symptoms are very similar to a cold, but a bacterial infection will last 10 days or greater typically. Sometimes the symptoms will worsen over the course of five to seven days. And then there’s something called a double-worsening sign, where patients will feel like they’re
getting better initially, around day one or two,
and then they get worse and then they get better
again and then they get worse. So that double-worsening sign typically indicates that they probably have a bacterial infection. And lastly, with allergies, allergies has a very
common symptom profile too, except that with allergies you typically don’t get the fever, you
don’t get the discolored mucus and you don’t have a productive cough. Allergies also has a
pretty well-known trigger, if you’ve been outdoors or
if you’ve been around cats, you’ve been around the offending trigger. And it also depends,
allergies can last year round, depending if you’re allergic
to dust mites or mold. But sometimes it can be more seasonal with trees, weeds and grasses. (gentle piano music)

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