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You feel tired. You have a sore throat. You also have aching sinuses, post-nasal drip, and a headache. Do you have a cold or a sinus infection?

Diagnose the Difference Between These Common Upper Respiratory Ailments for Yourself

Knowing the difference between a cold and a sinus infection is important because the two conditions are treated in two different ways. Colds are caused by viruses. They respond to zinc, vitamin C, and temporarily eating more.

Sinus infections are caused by bacteria. They don't respond to zinc and they usually don't respond to vitamin C. They may respond to over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as Aspirin or Tylenol, or to anti-inflammatory herbs. And while your doctor sometimes can treat a sinus infection with an antibiotics, colds are caused by viruses, and against viruses antibiotics do no good.

Since more people have colds than have sinus infections, let's start with a quick review of colds symptoms. Colds usually cause a cluster of symptoms, including:

  • Feeling run down before other symptoms start
  • Feeling a "tingling" in the nose before the onset of sneezing
  • Frequent sneezing with clear mucus
  • Post-nasal drip, watery mucus running down the back of the throat
  • Fever, although fever is more common in adults than in children

There are several things you can do to make a cold much less severe provided you take the treatment at the very first sign of symptoms. One is to take zinc. The objective of taking zinc, however, is to get zinc to your nose, not to the rest of your body.

Zinc stops viruses from entering cells they have not yet infected. If you suck on a zinc lozenge, it will release zinc into your saliva, and then your saliva will protect the back of your throat from infection. You may still get a cold in your nose, but it is less likely to "go down" your throat.

Zinc nose sprays protect your nasal passages from widespread infection. A nose spray may help you get over a cold very quickly. If there is even slightest hint of pain in your nose or sinuses when you use a zinc spray, however, stop immediately, and don't use the spray again. When people have suffered loss of their sense of taste or smell after using a nose spray, invariably they ignored the warning signal of pain.

Also, there is a cold remedy that provides zinc with vitamin C in a fizzy drink that soothes your throat as it provides needed nutrients, but it is not Alka-Seltzer. It's Redoxon Vitamin C and Zinc, made by Hoffman-La Roche. Each Vita Immune tablet contains:

  • 10 milligrams of zinc
  • 1000 milligrams of vitamin C
  • 2333 IU of vitamin A
  • 6.5 milligrams of vitamin B 6
  • 9.6 micrograms of vitamin B12
  • 400 IU of vitamin D
  • 45 milligrams of vitamin E
  • 400 micrograms of folic acid
  • 110 micrograms of selenium
  • 900 micrograms of copper
  • 5 milligrams of iron

Providing the full range of nutrients that fight viral infections, Redoxon has been a tried and trusted over-the-counter colds and flu remedy since 1934. Because the vitamin C in Redoxon is a fizzy combination of ascorbic acid and sodium bicarbonate, the tablets bubble when mixed in water. They make a tingly, soothing beverage that delivers the nutrients that fight colds directly to the tissues that need them most.

What about that old adage about feeding a cold? It can help to eat more carbohydrate and fat—just for a day or two—when you already have colds symptoms. Most of the additional calories are burned off, and your body has to get rid of the additional carbon dioxide. You breathe deeper, and it's easier to sneeze away the mucus lining your nose.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Varricchio A, Avvisati F, Varricchio AM, Tortoriello G, Ciprandi G. The nose and paranasal sinuses. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar, 23(1 Suppl):1-3. Review.
  • Photo courtesy of findingtheobvious by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/micahrr/5386083144/