From the founders of ZoomCare

woman sneezing either from flu or sinus infection

Image Source: Andrea Piacquadio // Flu or Sinus Infection

If you’re feeling all achy and feverish, it’s more likely that you have the flu. But if your face feels like it’s about to explode and your nose is all stuffed up, it could be a sinus infection. 

It can be hard to tell if you have flu or sinus infection, especially when you’re feeling under the weather. Both can make you feel pretty crummy. But some key differences in the symptoms can help you figure out what’s going on. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can distinguish the two.

Is It Flu or Sinus Infection?

How can you tell if it’s the flu or sinus infection, especially if it’s flu season? Here are the main differences in terms of each condition’s symptoms.

What are the symptoms of flu (influenza)?

symptoms of flu or influenza- is it flu or sinus infection

Image Source: Mikael Haggstrom // Flu or Sinus Infection

When you have flu, it can make you feel really sick. Flu symptoms can be more severe than just a common cold. One of the first things you might notice is that you always feel shivering cold. You might also have a cough that just won’t go away. Some people with the flu also get a fever.

Another symptom of the flu is a runny nose. It might be constantly dripping and you might feel like you’re sneezing a lot. You might also feel really tired like you haven’t slept in days. And your whole body might ache like you’ve been doing really intense exercise for hours. These muscle and body aches can make it hard to move around.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Acute and chronic sinusitis can cause a variety of symptoms. When your sinuses become infected or inflamed, it can lead to discomfort and even pain. Here are some common symptoms of sinusitis:

Sinusitis SymptomsDescription
Nasal congestionOne of the most prominent symptoms of sinusitis is a stuffy or blocked nose. It can make it difficult to breathe through your nose and may cause a runny nose as well.
Frontal headachesSinusitis can lead to headaches, often felt in the forehead area. These headaches can be persistent and can worsen when you bend forward or lie down.
Face tendernessIf you have sinusitis, you may experience tenderness or pain in the areas around your nose, cheeks, and eyes. Touching these areas might be uncomfortable.
Pain in the teethSinus infections can cause referred pain, which means that you may feel discomfort or pain in your teeth even though the problem is in your sinuses.
Earache or pressure in the earsThe congestion and inflammation in the sinuses can create a feeling of pressure or discomfort in the ears. It may also cause earaches.
CoughingSinusitis can trigger coughing, especially if mucus drains down the back of your throat (postnasal drip). Sometimes, the cough may worsen during the night.
FatigueSinusitis can leave you feeling tired and fatigued due to the body’s immune response and constant discomfort.
Bad breathWhen mucus builds up in the sinuses, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to bad breath.

Difference Between Flu And Sinus Infection

When it comes to the flu, you can expect some common symptoms like fever and body aches. These can really knock you off your feet and make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. You might also have a cough and a sore throat. The flu is caused by a viral infection, and it tends to come on pretty suddenly.

On the other hand, a sinus infection is more focused on your face. You might experience facial pain and tenderness around your nose, cheeks, and eyes. Your nose may feel stuffy and congested, and you might have a runny nose too. The mucus from a sinus infection can even cause bad breath. Sinus infections can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections.

One way to tell if it’s flu or sinus infection is how long the symptoms last. The flu tends to stick around for about a week before you start feeling better. Sinus infections, on the other hand, can last for a couple of weeks or even longer.

Flu Turned Into Sinus Infection: Is That Possible?

Flu OR sinus infection turned flu AND THEN sinus infection: It might seem like bad luck, but there’s a possibility. Sinus infection after flu is a common incidence. The flu virus can weaken your immune system. And when it’s weakened, it’s easier for other germs, like bacteria, to take advantage and cause bacterial sinusitis.

Flu can also cause inflammation in your nasal passages. This inflammation can block your sinuses and prevent mucus from draining properly. When mucus builds up in your sinuses, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which can then result in a sinus infection.

So, while it may not be a direct transformation from the flu to a sinus infection, it’s possible for the flu to weaken your immune system and stimulate the conditions for a sinus infection to develop.

So if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms that stick around for longer than a week, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare professional to determine if your flu has already turned into a sinus infection.

What other health conditions can feel like a sinus infection?

man sneezing because of flu or sinus infection

Image Source: Gustavo Fring // Flu or Sinus Infection

Sinus infections can be quite bothersome, but did you know that there are other health conditions that can make you feel like you have a sinus infection aside from the flu? These conditions share some similar symptoms, making it difficult to tell them apart. Now, is it flu or sinus infection, or something else?

Common Cold or Sinus Infection

When you have a cold, you might have a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, and maybe even a low-grade fever. Another common cold symptom is some mild sinus pressure.

Sinusitis symptoms can be similar to a cold, but they often last longer and can be more severe. You might have a stuffy or blocked nose, thick or colored nasal discharge, and more intense sinus pressure or pain. Unlike a cold, a sinus infection doesn’t usually come with a fever.

How can you tell the difference between the common cold and sinus infection? If you have a low-grade fever, it’s more likely a cold. If you have a stuffy or blocked nose with thick or colored mucus buildup, and your symptoms have been hanging around for a while, it might be a sinus infection. 

Sinus Infection or COVID-19

COVID-19 can cause symptoms like a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms might come on suddenly and have more severe symptoms than a sinus infection. One main difference is that COVID-19 can cause loss of taste and sense of smell, which is not common with a sinus infection.

Ear Infection or Sinus Infection

An ear infection specifically affects the middle ear only, while a sinus infection affects the whole sinus. With an ear infection, you may experience ear pain or discomfort, fluid buildup in the ear, and difficulty hearing or feeling like your ears are plugged. 

Pink Eye or Sinus Infection

How can you tell if you have pink eye or a sinus infection? With pink eye, your eyes are the main source of discomfort, while sinusitis causes pain in your sinuses. Your eyes might have a discharge and feel itchy or irritated. With a sinus infection, however, your eyes might be affected because the sinuses are located near your eyes, causing them to feel pressured or even painful.

Allergies or Sinus Infection

When you have allergies, you might experience sneezing, a runny nose, and nasal obstruction. Your eyes, nose, and throat could also feel itchy. You might have allergic rhinitis or have been exposed to allergy triggers like food, pollen, dust, or pet dander. Allergies are also not contagious like sinusitis.

If you’ve been sneezing and have a runny nose and itchy eyes, it could be allergies. But if you have a stuffy nose and pain in your face, along with green or yellow mucus, it might be chronic or acute sinusitis. 

Strep Throat or Sinus Infection

Strep throat mainly affects the throat and tonsils, while sinus infections do not. It can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Fever, headache, and a red rash known as scarlet fever can also be present.

Sinus infection symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, facial pain or pressure, and yellow or green discharge coming from the nose, and doesn’t cause rashes, difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sinus infection feel like flu?

Symptoms of the flu and a sinus infection can actually be quite similar. Both can make you feel tired, give you a headache, and make your throat sore. You might also have a cough with both of them.

So, yes, a sinus infection can feel like the flu. But remembering the differences in symptoms, like fever, body aches, facial pain, and mucus color, can help you identify whether it is flu or sinus infection. 

Can you have flu and sinus infection at the same time?

Flu or sinus infection? It might be both. If you have symptoms of both the flu and a sinus infection, like a stuffy nose, sore throat, and intense pain in your face, it’s possible to have both at the same time. It’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician if you’re unsure, so they can help you figure out if you have flu or sinus infection, or both and give you the right treatment.

Do your sinuses hurt with flu?

It’s normal for sinuses to hurt with the flu. When you have the flu, your sinuses can get inflamed and swollen. This can cause them to become blocked, leading to a buildup of mucus. This trapped mucus can put pressure on the walls of your sinuses, resulting in that painful feeling.

But if you have intense pain, it might be a sinus infection. This pain is usually in your face, especially around your sinuses. When you have a flu, you may not usually experience this kind of pain.

Do I need antibiotics for a sinus infection?

Sinus infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and the treatment depends on the type of sinus infection you have.

Bacterial sinus infections are usually treated with antibiotics. These medications target the bacteria causing the infection and help your body fight it off. 

On the other hand, viral sinusitis does not respond to antibiotics. Viruses are the culprits behind the flu or sinus infections, and they don’t require antibiotics to get better. In these cases, the best course of action is to treat the symptoms naturally, such as using a nasal spray, saline solution, and a Neti pot for sinus irrigation, drinking plenty of fluids, or doing steam inhalation, and let your body’s immune system do the job of fighting off the virus.

Do you cough with a sinus infection?

Yes, you may cough with a sinus infection. When you have a sinus infection, sinus cavities in your face become inflamed and swollen. This can cause coughing.

Post-nasal drip is also common when you have sinusitis. This is when mucus from your sinuses drips down the back of your throat, irritating it and causing you to cough.

Key Takeaways

Differentiating between whether you have flu or sinus infection can be challenging due to their overlapping symptoms, such as a stuffy or runny nose, headache, and cough. However, some key differences can help you distinguish between the two.

The flu typically presents with more systemic symptoms like fever, body aches, and fatigue, while a sinus infection is more focused on the face, causing facial pain and pressure, along with thick, colored nasal discharge. 

Recognizing the subtle differences in symptoms and seeking medical treatment from a naturopathic healthcare provider like CleanCure will allow you to take the right steps to recover from your medical condition. So, is it flu or sinus infection?

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