Is It a Sinus Infection or COVID-19?

You haven’t been feeling well for a few days – your sinuses are congested, you have a stuffy nose, and your headache is persisting despite over-the-counter medications. Seasonal allergies and the common cold have become more fraught – is it a sinus infection, or could it be something more serious? Your cause for concern is understandable.

It’s true that COVID-19 infection symptoms are similar to symptoms of a sinus infection. But it’s important to remember that although there are overlapping symptoms in these conditions, there are subtle differences. A sinus infection can’t be spread from person to person (although a common cold can). The opposite is true for COVID-19. It can be easily spread from person to person, so it’s important to limit your exposure to others before you determine the cause of your symptoms.    

Sinus Infection Symptoms

Sinus infections occur when the inside lining of your nasal cavities becomes inflamed, swollen or infected, usually caused by a cold or allergies. When nasal passages become blocked or filled with mucus and phlegm, an infection can develop. Other symptoms include:

  • Facial pain or pressure in the sinuses
  • Nasal congestion or discharge
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Headaches
  • Loss of smell
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Cough, congestion or throat irritation 

Along with these common sinusitis symptoms, you might also experience fever, dental pain or fatigue.

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Common symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough and congestion
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

But unlike a sinus infection, COVID-19 tends to cause more respiratory or flu-like symptoms such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and a new loss of taste or smell.

Keep in mind that while symptoms of a sinus infection tend to build over several days, COVID-19 symptoms will generally appear very quickly.

When to Visit Piedmont Urgent Care

The good news is that many sinus infections and COVID-19 cases can be treated at home. Start with over-the-counter pain and nasal decongestant medications to ease your symptoms, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated.  

If you’re unsure about whether your symptoms are related to sinus issues, allergies or COVID-19, Piedmont Urgent Care offers multiple locations in the Atlanta area with extended evening and weekend hours and convenient virtual visit options.

We also offer PCR test results in as soon as 2 hours and rapid antigen tests within 15 minutes at all of our locations. Learn more. If at any time you are experiencing difficulty breathing, new confusion, difficulty walking, discoloration of your skin, lips or nail beds, or have persistent chest pain or pressure, seek emergency care immediately.