Allergy or Sinus Infection?
A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is an inflammation of the sinus cavities that are located behind the nose, around the eyes and behind the check bones. This common condition is the cause of approximately 20 percent of all patient visits to an allergist or immunologist, according to research included on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s website. This amounts to about 18 million cases every year.
The Allergy-Sinus Connection
AAAAI also cites the strong link between allergies and sinus infections, since the two conditions often go hand in hand. In fact, one study listed noted that just over half of all people diagnosed with a sinus infection also suffered from nasal allergies. The relationship stems back to the fact that with allergies, as well as with the common cold, the nasal congestion causes your sinuses to become inflamed, and the swelling makes it difficult for the mucus to drain. When this occurs, you are at risk for bacteria to breed in this space.
How to Differentiate?
Since allergies and a sinus infection can be so closely related, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which condition is to blame for your symptoms. The experts say, though, that there are some telltale differences.
- First, with an allergy, you will feel worse when you come in contact with your trigger (such as trees or dust) and feel better when you remove yourself. If things progress into a sinus infection, on the other hand, the discomfort will continue to bother you and may even continue to become more painful as time goes on.
- In addition, allergies are typically accompanied by clear, thin mucus, while sinusitis has thicker mucus with a greenish or yellow tint.
- Finally, with allergies, people may also have an itchy throat, nose and eyes, while people with sinus discomfort are likely to experience a headache, pain in their sinus cavities, pain in their upper teeth, a persistent cough and a fever.
When in doubt, the experts recommend going to your doctor and having your symptoms checked out.
If your doctor does confirm that you do have a sinus infection, there are several possible treatment methods. These include antibiotics to fight the infection, and oral or nasal steroids to reduce swelling in the nasal passages and also to prevent future infections. You may also try a nasal decongestant to reduce the congestion and fullness in your nose. This can also help to prevent postnasal drip. Further, an expectorant can also be helpful to thin your nasal mucus and help it to drain. Finally, some people find using a nasal wash is an easy way to clear your sinuses.
Your doctor may recommend trying one of more of these methods to get relief from the discomfort you feel. In more serious cases that don’t resolve using any of these treatment options, you can also talk to your doctor about sinus surgery and find out if this is a viable option to consider.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website, citing study by Hamilos DL. Chronic sinusitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000;106:213-27. To access the statistics, visit the website at http://www.aaaai.org/media/statistics/allergy-statistics.asp#allergicrhinitis.
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