Sinus Infection vs Cold: Which Do You Have?

Sinus Infection vs Cold_ Which Do You Have

Colds and sinus infections may have similar symptoms, but they are two very different types of illnesses.

If you wake up with a stuffy nose, unable to breathe, you may initially think you have a cold, and run to the doctor for antibiotics. That’s the wrong move because a cold is a virus. But if you have a sinus infection, which is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are usually used to get rid of the bacteria that are causing the infection.

With a cold, antibiotics won’t ease symptoms faster, and they could make it more difficult to fight sinus-related problems later on, because your body becomes resistant to antibiotics over time, so they become less effective.

So, the big question we need to ask ourselves when we find ourselves stuffed up, is it a sinus infection or is it a cold?

woman with sinus infectionIs it a Sinus Infection?

An estimated 31 million people a year experience sinus infection, according to Health magazine.1

Many think they have a simple cold, and they ignore the symptoms that could be potentially serious, taking cold medicine to mask the problem as it grows steadily worse.

Sinus infections, however, are no joke.

And while many of the symptoms echo those of a cold, in reality, they are caused by a bacterial infection in the nasal passages, rather than a simple virus, and they won’t go away on their own.

Symptoms Include:

  • Sinus pressure that is especially severe behind the eyes and the cheeks
  • A stuffy, runny nose that fails to clear up within a week
  • A headache the worsens
  • A fever
  • A cough
  • Mucus that is thick yellow or green that drains down your throat, better known as postnasal drip, or from your nose
  • A decreased sense of smell due to the congestion.2

Allergies can lead to a sinus infection, while colds very rarely do, experts say.

What happens to trigger a sinus infection is that the nasal passages are a breeding ground for bacteria, especially because we so often touch our noses.

When nasal passages become infected, sinus passages become thick with mucus, and bacteria become trapped there, creating a long-term problem.

But determining a sinus infection vs. a cold is still difficult.

Is it a Cold?

A cold is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection, so that is the difference between a sinus infection vs. a cold.

Colds don’t last as long as sinus infections, and they are more likely to impact young children than adults.

Symptoms of a Cold are Similar, and Include:

  • A sore throat
  • A hacking, sometimes painful cough
  • A headache
  • A stuffy nose
  • A buildup of mucus that makes it tough to breathe
  • Sneezing
  • Swollen, painful sinuses – but not the pain that radiates throughout the sinus cavity associated with a sinus infection
  • Fatigue
  • A low-grade fever in adults that may be higher in children3

That high-grade fever that accompanies a child’s cold is what causes so many mothers to race to the doctor’s office for a prescription for an antibiotic.

On the surface, it seems as if medication such as an antibiotic would be the best solution.

Still, neither children nor adults should take antibiotics for colds, which are caused by viruses rather than bacteria.

Antibiotics won’t speed up the healing of a cold nearly as much as vitamin C or citrus-based essential oils, because one of the main compounds in citrus oils, limonene, is an anti-inflammatory that can help control coughs by reducing the amount of fluid that accumulates in the lymphatic system.

A 2013 study from Brazilian researchers that appeared in the journal Evidence-Based found that lemon oil was an effective way to ease coughing and other cold symptoms.4

Other Essential Oils that Can Help Ease Cold Symptoms Include:

  • Peppermint essential oil. According to a 2018 article in Natural News, the menthol in peppermint essential oil reduces swelling in the nasal passages, so breathing can return to normal. It also has antiviral benefits that can stop colds in their tracks with regular use.5
  • Oregano essential oil. Said to be as effective as antibiotics at easing symptoms of a cold, the carvacrol in oregano is an effective antiviral, according to a 2014 study from Tucson researchers that appeared in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.6
  • Eucalyptus essential oil. This powerful oil helps ease cold symptoms in several ways. It not only eases pain and inflammation, according to a 2003 study that appeared in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology7, it also has menthol that eases sore throats and opens nasal passages to relieve nasal congestion so that breathing improves.8

girl holding relieve MONQWhy Essential Oils are Essential

The use of essential oils to ease symptoms of a cold is becoming more important. The use of too many antibiotics can make them less effective, which can have serious ramifications. Essential oils can help combat this overuse.

Right now, one of the biggest problems doctors face is fighting the resistance some serious infections have to antibiotics.

In a story that appeared in the United Kingdom’s newspaper The Guardian on April 29, Dame Sally Davies, The Chief Medical Officer for England, called antibiotic resistance as much of a threat to world safety as climate change, and one that is being taken just as seriously by much of the world’s population.9

She described the problem as something that creeps just as slowly as climate change, so it can go unrecognized or be brushed off, even as doctors struggle to control certain drug-resistant infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a contagious bacteria that isn’t easily treated with antibiotics10).

She said there are few scientists interested in developing new drugs, which is increasing the problem.

“This is the equivalent to extreme weather,” Davies said.

In Conclusion

With antibiotics causing so much trouble, essential oils become more important than ever. MONQ’s Relieve blend or MONQ’s Healthy blend, which contains cinnamon leaf, marjoram and turmeric – which were described as the world’s best antioxidant on an episode of “The People’s Pharmacy with Joe and Terry Graedon” – as the main ingredients. These three powerhouse essential oils are combined with basil, caraway, copaiba, dill seed, lemon, and mandarin green essential oils. Each of these were deliberately selected to help achieve desired results. They’ll help ward off a cold and other illnesses by strengthening the immune system.11

Photo credits: Emilyfrost/, fizkes/


By Brenda Neugent

Brenda began her journey with essential oils 20 years ago when making homemade soaps and has been researching and writing about them ever since. She feels that there’s still a lot to learn in the world of aromatherapy and wants to take readers along for the journey.

Favorite MONQ blend: Private: Healthy

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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