Is it Sinusitis or Allergies?

woman blowing her noseAllergies are an unfortunate fact of life for many people living in Texas. With mild winters, it never gets cold enough for all the pollen-shedding plants and trees to go dormant. So, when you’re sneezing and have a runny nose, you probably think allergies are to blame. However, sometimes the real cause is sinusitis. Luckily, you can learn the differences between the two conditions and get the proper treatment to start breathing clearly again

 

What Is Sinusitis?

When nasal passages become inflamed, mucus can't drain normally. That is a recipe for a host of bothersome symptoms. However, unlike allergies, sinusitis is usually a secondary condition to colds and allergies. That means your stuffy nose and other symptoms will persist long after you’re no longer experiencing acute allergy or cold symptoms.

Sinusitis can be acute when symptoms last less than four weeks, or chronic, which lasts longer than three months. Symptoms include:

  • Thick green or yellow mucus
  • Headache
  • Painful areas around the eyes, cheeks and on the forehead
  • Teeth pain
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue

Occasionally, sinus symptoms will clear up on their own. However, in most cases lasting longer than 10 days, a doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear up the condition.

 

What Are Allergies?

Allergies can occur at any time. Symptoms like a stuffy nose will kick in soon after contact with your allergy “trigger.” Sometimes, pollen is to blame, which means you’ll only be affected when the plants and trees you’re allergic to are in bloom. However, you could also be allergic to contaminants that are present year round like:

  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites

Common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Wheezing

You can treat your allergies with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines or nasal decongestant sprays. Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid, which helps you breathe by reducing inflammation.

In severe cases where the patient is allergic to many different triggers, a doctor may suggest allergy shots. After testing identifies all of the allergens a patient reacts to, a specialized serum is created that is injected into the patient in small doses over the course of several years. The injections help the patient build up immunity to their allergy triggers and are an incredibly effective therapy in reducing allergic reactions.

 

How Are Sinusitis and Allergies Similar?

Since both allergies and sinusitis make sinus passages swell, the main overlapping symptom for both conditions is a stuffy nose. Sometimes doctors have trouble making the correct diagnosis, especially when the sinus conditions is secondary to prolonged allergy symptoms. Other symptoms both conditions have in common include:

  • Headache
  • Nasal discharge
  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Coughing

 

How Can You Tell the Two Conditions Apart?

Although sinusitis and allergies are sometimes linked and share many of the same symptoms, there are marked differences. The following symptoms are typical only of sinusitis:

  • Fever
  • Pain in teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Duration of weeks to months

A doctor can conclusively diagnose sinus infections with x-rays that show a buildup of infected fluid inside the sinus cavities. Untreated sinus infections can lead to damage of sinus cavities that requires surgery to remove damaged tissue.

 

Where Can I Find Treatment for My Allergy and Sinus Symptoms?

If you’re suffering from nasal congestion and aren’t sure of the cause, make an appointment with one of the board-certified doctors of Lakeside Allergy ENT today at 972-771-5443 or visit us online. Serving patients in Wylie, Rockwall, and Forney, our doctors have years of experience treating allergy and sinus conditions and will put you on the road to recovery.

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