Sinus Infection

Sinus Infection or COVID-19? A Detailed Guide

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Are you trying to figure out if you’re suffering from a sinus infection or COVID-19? While COVD-19 and sinus infections do share some similar symptoms, they’re two very different illnesses. 

The steps you need to treat a sinus infection are different from the steps you need to treat COVID-19. How can you tell which illness you’re suffering from?

Check out this guide to learn about the differences between sinus infections and COVID-19

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus 

What is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, occurs when the tissues lining your sinuses become blocked or inflamed. While healthy sinuses contain air, blocked sinuses contain fluids

When your sinuses are blocked with fluids, it creates a breeding ground for germs and can lead to infection. There are a few conditions that can cause a sinus infection, including:

  • The common cold
  • Nasal polyps (there are small growths in the lining of the nose)
  • A deviated septum (this is a shift in the nasal cavity)
  • The common cold 

A virus is usually the cause of a sinus infection. In some cases, bacteria may also cause a sinus infection. And in some very rare instances, a fungus can also cause a sinus infection. 

Because viruses are contagious, it’s essential to stay away from others while your sinus infection is still active. If possible, speak with a telemedicine doctor about your condition to avoid going out in public. 

Many people think that because COVID-19 is a virus, it can lead to sinus infections. However, there is, so far, no evidence to support this claim

Related: Telehealth Services are Becoming Increasingly Popular 

What is COVID-19?


COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a virus that affects the respiratory system. The “CO” in the word stands for “corona,” the “VI” stands for “virus,” the “D” stands for “disease,” and the “19” stands for the year in which it was discovered, 2019. 

The virus can spread from one individual to the next through respiratory droplets produced by an infected individual when they sneeze, cough, or talk. These droplets then land in the mouths of nearby people who then also contract the virus and risk spreading it to other people. 

So far, over 97 million people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus, and that number is expected to grow

COVID-19 vs. Sinus Infection Symptoms

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes people mistake their sinus infection for COVID-19 (and vice versa) because they share some similar symptoms

Here are the symptoms that both of the illnesses share:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Cough 
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Sore throat

With COVID-19, your cough will either have dry mucus or no mucus, while sinus infections typically come with a mucusy cough. Here are the COVID-19 symptoms that you won’t experience if you have a sinus infection:

  • Bluish lips or face
  • Chest pain
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath ( in some severe cases, those with a sinus infection may experience shortness of breath)
  • Loss of taste or smell

Again, if you’re experiencing the above symptoms, you’re most likely suffering from coronavirus, not a sinus infection. Additionally, here are some symptoms that are unique to sinus infections that you likely won’t experience if you have COVID-19:

  • Facial pain
  • Bad breath
  • Runny nose/sneezing
  • Neck stiffness
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Nasal drip

In some cases, you may even experience changes to your vision. 

Looking to speak to a doctor about your symptoms? Click here to schedule an appointment! 

COVID-19 vs Sinus Infection: Diagnosis

doctor x-ray laptop patient telehealth

Luckily, you can figure out which illness you’re suffering from pretty easily by taking a test. Unfortunately, there is no formal test for a sinus infection. Rather, you’ll explain your symptoms to your doctor, and your doctor will perform a medical examination that involves checking the inside of your nose with a speculum or flashlight. 

However, there are two types of tests you can take to determine if you have COVID-19: an antigen test or a molecular test

Molecular Test 

The molecular COVID test, also known as a PCR test (short for polymerase chain reaction), is considered the most accurate

This test involves a healthcare provider taking a swab of mucus from your nose or your throat. Or, they can take saliva from your mouth. Turnaround time for test results can vary from minutes to days. It really depends on where you get tested and whether the sample is analyzed onsite or sent to a lab nearby. 

Antigen Test 

The antigen COVID test, also known as the “rapid test”, is cheaper to produce and is used to screen large numbers of people. While antigen tests work similarly to molecular tests, they’re unfortunately not as accurate

To collect a sample for testing, a medical professional will swab the back of your throat or nose. However, instead of potentially having to wait days for results, you’ll get your results back in less than an hour. 

Antibody Test 

There is also an antibody test you can take for COVID-19. If you test positive for antibodies, that means you were infected with the virus at some point in the past

However, researchers are still unsure if the presence of antibodies means you’re completely immune to the virus. A medical professional will take a blood sample via finger prick to test for antibodies. 

COVID-19 vs Sinus Infection: Treatment

The best way to treat a sinus infection is to give your nasal passages time to heal. There are also a few things you can do to ease your sinus infection symptoms, including:

  • Taking OTC pain medications
  • Using a nasal decongestant or nasal saline rinse
  • Running a dehumidifier to add moisture to the air
  • Resting and drinking plenty of water
  • Using a warm compress to ease facial pain

The FDA has so far only approved of one drug to treat coronavirus, remdesivir (Veklury). However, you can now get vaccinated to protect yourself against the virus, but there is a long waiting list. Depending on where you live and the state of your health, you may need to wait months to receive the vaccination. 

If you find out that you’re positive for COVID-19, the best thing to do is stay at home and avoid close contact with others until you’ve overcome the illness. If someone must enter your home, make sure you’re both wearing face masks. 

You should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and monitor your symptoms. 

If you have basic COVID-19 symptoms, you don’t need to go to the hospital. If you’re having trouble breathing, experiencing constant pain, or you have bluish lips or a bluish face, then you should go to the hospital

Related: Flu vs Cold: Understanding the Differences 

Sinus Infection vs COVID-19: Wrap Up 

Now that you’ve read this guide on sinus infections and COVID-19, you should have a better understanding of what illness you’re experiencing. 

Both sinus infections and COVID-19 can make you very ill, so make sure to get plenty of rest and take care of yourself

Got questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing? Contact us today!