signs your cold is a sinus infectionDo you have watery eyes? Have you been sneezing? Is your nose stuffy? Do you have post-nasal drip? Your symptoms may will clear up with a little rest and some vitamin C, but how do you know? What you think is the common cold could be something more serious — a sinus infection.

Here are some clues that your cold is no longer just a common cold and may really be a sinus infection:

Have your Symptoms Lasted Over a Week?

When you have a cold, you can generally expect your symptoms to last less than 10 days. In contrast, bacterial sinus infections last for over a week, and some symptoms, like headaches and sinus pressure, may actually get worse. If you have treated a cold with over the counter medicine like advil and used decongestants and nasal saline rinses and have not seen an improvement in your symptoms, your cold is probably now a bacterial sinus infection.

Has Your Nasal Discharge Become Heavier?

If you have worsening of your nasal discharge after a week or so, this can be a sign that your cold is really a sinus infection. While you may experience a runny nose and nasal congestion from both a cold and a sinus infection, an increase in the discharge along with facial pressure can be clues that your sinus infection has progressed from viral to bacterial.

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Has Your Facial Pressure Increased?

One of the primary symptoms of a sinus infection is inflammation in the nasal pathways. You can tell if your nasal passages are inflamed by looking inside your nostrils. Is the inside of your nose red or swollen? Blockage of  the nose may cause pressure build-up in the sinuses.This occurs with the common cold as well but if the pressure in your cheeks and forehead or behind your eyes suddenly increases then the viral infection may have become bacterial. Learn common ways to reduce sinus inflammation.

Do Your Symptoms Improve With Antibiotics?

Let’s say you have had thick green nasal discharge and worsening of your facial congestion for over 10 days. You have tried decongestants and saline nasal rinses and your infection is not going away. Your cold is now almost certainly a sinus infection. It would be appropriate to visit your doctor and you may benefit from antibiotics. Augmentin (amoxicillin/clavulanic acid), Biaxin (clarithromycin) or Zithromax Z-paks (azithromycin) are some of the more common antibiotics you may be given.

If you are experiencing signs that your cold is really a sinus infection, it still may clear up with conservative treatment and time. If your sinus infection is not going away then it is important to see a doctor, preferably one that specializes in sinus problems. Even if starts as an acute sinus infection, if it does not resolve, it could turn into a chronic infection, ultimately requiring surgery.