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Are you Experiencing Sinusitis or Allergies?

a professional ear nose throat specialist

Allergies and sinus infections can often have similar symptoms, and so it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. 

Sinuses are small cavities filled with air, found behind your forehead and cheekbones. Your nose produces mucus that passes through small channels into your nose. When you have sinusitis, these small channels get blocked up as a result of inflamed sinus lining. In most cases, sinusitis is caused by a viral infection, yet it can also be caused by:

  • Small growths called nasal polyps
  • Certain bacterial infections
  • The nasal cavity has shifted
  • A common cold

Allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to an allergen. These allergens might be pets, dust or pollen. Allergies occur because your immune system has learnt to identify a certain substance as dangerous. Your immune system works to produce antibodies to fight off the potential threat. Sinus inflammation is one of the most common bodily reactions to an allergy.

How are the symptoms of allergies & sinusitis different? 

The symptoms of allergies and sinusitis do overlap; however, there are also some distinct differences:

  • Congestion in your nose
  • Feeling pain around your cheeks & eyes
  • Toothache/sensitive teeth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Experiencing headaches
  • Trouble breathing through the nose
  • Having bad breath
  • Cannot blow the nose
  • A high temperature

The symptoms of allergies 

Those with allergies will also experience nasal congestion and trouble breathing through the nose. It’s also common to experience headaches. As well as these symptoms, those with allergies will experience watery and itchy eyes and frequent sneezing. The later symptoms are not typical of sinusitis, if you are experiencing watering eyes and sneezing, you likely have allergies as opposed to a sinus infection. It’s not common to experience a fever or facial pain when you have allergies. Those with these symptoms are more likely to have sinusitis.

Treatments for sinusitis or allergies 

Although the symptoms are slightly different you can treat both sinusitis and allergies using a decongestant nasal spray. These sprays use the active ingredient pseudoephedrine and can be purchased over the counter. Pseudoephedrine helps to reduce swelling and clear the airways in your nose. You can use a decongestant spray for three days, after this point it’s advisable to visit an ENT doctor about your symptoms.

Treatments for allergies 

The most common treatment for allergies are over the counter medicines called antihistamines. Your body produces histamines when it notices a harmful substance, causing your blood vessels to expand. When you take an antihistamine, this medicine blocks the histamine activity and stops your body from overreacting to non-harmful substances. Besides antihistamines, you can also try:

  • Drinking lots of clear fluids
  • Using a saltwater nasal spray
  • Visiting your doctor for alternative allergy medication

Treatments for sinusitis 

To get rid of the symptoms of sinusitis, you can try various solutions such as:

  • Drainage: Attempt to drain your nasal passage by inhaling steam and drinking lots of water.
  • Saline spray: An over the counter saline spray can help you to clear a mucus build-up and ease swelling.
  • Humidifier: Sleep with a humidifier in your room, these machines add humidity to the air and are beneficial for nasal decongestion.
  • Over the counter painkillers: If you are experiencing sinus pain, it can be helpful to use over the counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.
  • Antibiotics: Your ENT doctor may give you antibiotics if your sinus problems are the result of a bacterial infection.
  • Decongestant spray: One of the most popular treatments for sinus issues is a decongestant spray.

When to see an ENT doctor 

No matter the cause of your symptoms, you should visit an ENT doctor if your symptoms do not improve or become severe. An ENT doctor can examine and diagnose symptoms caused by allergies or sinusitis. Your ENT doctor will use a nasal endoscopy to examine your nose, checking for drainage issues, infections or nasal polyps. An ENT doctor can offer you a steroid-based spray if decongestant sprays have not worked.

Nasal infections can lead to complications in some cases, particularly if your symptoms have persisted for several months. Sinusitis symptoms that last for three months or more are considered chronic sinusitis. Usually this condition requires special treatment. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery options to treat chronic sinusitis. To learn more about sinus treatments, call Independence Ear, Nose, & Throat at 772-888-1880.