You can always tell when your allergies come back. Sniffling, sneezing and coughing disrupt your day, itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose halt productivity, and congestion keeps you from sleeping a wink.
It’s no secret allergies are one of the most common chronic conditions. They are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness, affecting 50 million Americans per year.1 However, the symptoms associated with allergies are common to many types of illnesses. In fact, what you may have assumed were allergies could actually be an entirely different condition. If your symptoms aren’t responding to traditional allergy treatments, it may be time to investigate whether your “allergies” are actually sinusitis in disguise.
What Is Sinusitis?
If allergies and sinusitis have the same symptoms, why are they considered different conditions? Although you may experience all the same symptoms as your friends and family who have seasonal allergies, you may not have the same triggers. Unlike allergies, which are caused by irritants (called allergens) that enter your nasal passages and cause a reaction, sinusitis is most often cause by an infection in the sinuses. While allergens like pet dander or pollen are only temporary and can be flushed easily, bacterial and viral infections of the sinuses may require further treatment. This usually means symptoms caused by sinusitis stick around for a lot longer than those caused by allergies. Patients may end up developing more severe symptoms like fever or migraines if their sinusitis is left untreated.
Because allergies are so prolific, most people assume their symptoms are results of allergies without ever consulting a physician. However, if you suspect your symptoms are worse than most other people’s or last longer, it may be in your best interest to seek out a medical professional who can diagnose and treat you. Watch out for these signs to determine if you should see an ear, nose and throat specialist instead of an allergist.
- Trouble sleeping or waking
- Trouble concentrating
- Pressure or pain in the face
- Headache or migraine
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of taste or smell
How Do I Treat Sinusitis or Allergies?
In order to effectively treat each condition, you need to target the root causes, not just the symptoms. For this reason, the most effective treatments for both allergies and sinusitis will be quite different, despite their similar symptoms.
Allergies are caused by allergens you inhale or ingest. These can be year-round, like mold or pet dander, or seasonal, like grass or flower pollen. When you have allergies, your body overreacts to the presence of an allergen by releasing histamine into your bloodstream, causing eyes to water and noses to run. To fully alleviate symptoms, you’ll want to eliminate or avoid the allergen and stop your body’s production of histamine. Nasal decongestants and saline rinses are the most common ways to address allergy symptoms, while antihistamines will reduce the flow of histamine and prevent future reactions.
With sinusitis, you’ll need to treat both your symptoms and the infection itself. Nasal sprays with corticosteroids will reduce inflammation in your sinuses for as long as you need them. Avoid using decongestant sprays or oral decongestants for long periods of time, though. While corticosteroids are fine to use for up to a month, decongestants can cause a “rebound” effect after a few days of use, making your symptoms even worse. A saline rinse or humidifier may also help with inflammation and break up mucus in your sinuses. Your physician may choose to put you on an antibiotic to target the infection itself. Be sure to take the full round of antibiotics in conjunction with symptom management medications for the best results.
Breathe a Little Easier With Allergy & ENT Associates
Spring allergies and sinus infections can give way to unbearable symptoms. Even with over-the-counter treatments and at-home remedies, your sinusitis or allergies may not subside as quickly as you’d like. Even if you believe your symptoms are no big deal, any disruption to your daily life should be addressed.
At Allergy & ENT Associates, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and sinus infections. We’ve been serving the Houston area since 1957 and are certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. From balloon sinuplasty to rhinoplasty and more, we offer a wide variety of potential treatments to help you breathe easier. Contact us online or call (713) MY-SINUS to schedule your appointment today.