Cold, Flu, and Sinusitis

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Cold, flu, and sinusitis are three different diseases which have similar symptoms, in that they all primarily affect the respiratory tract (nose, throat, airways, and lungs).


Colds are most commonly caused by rhinoviruses.

The flu is caused by the Influenza virus.

Sinusitis is a complication of cold, hence also caused by rhinoviruses. However, sinusitis can also be caused by bacteria, and it can also be due to allergic conditions.


Symptoms of cold and flu include:

  • Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs
  • Chills and sweats
  • Headache
  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

Symptoms of Sinusitis:

  • Drainage of a thick yellowish green discharge from the nose
  • Nasal obstruction due to congestion
  • Pain and tenderness around the eyes, on the forehead, on the nose. This pain worsens on bending


Colds are diagnosed on the basis of the signs and symptoms.

The flu can also be diagnosed from signs and symptoms but a test is available, called the rapid influenza diagnostic test.

The diagnosis of sinusitis can be confirmed by some of the following tests and procedures:

  • Nasal endoscopy
  • CT scan of sinuses
  • MRI of sinuses
  • Nasal and sinus cultures
  • Allergy testing


Colds and flus are managed conservatively, by giving the patient fluids for adequate hydration, and bed rest.

Sinusitis however can be managed with some of the following modalities:

  • Saline nasal spray
  • Nasal steroid spray
  • Nasal decongestant
  • Antibiotics (if bacterial origin)
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