Sinusitis vs. allergies

May 31st, 2017

When our sinuses get congested, many of us assume it’s due to that dreaded condition: allergies. We think we can’t avoid them; we might take antihistamines in the hope that that will keep the pollen from attacking our sinuses, but it doesn’t always work.

What if it doesn’t work because you aren’t really having allergic reactions at all, but rather, experiencing sinusitis?

How would you know the difference? And what would you do about it, in either case?

Confusion reigns

Many people confuse the symptoms of allergies and sinus infections.[1] They are similar, affecting the same general area of the body, but they are distinct. If you pay close attention to your symptoms, you may be able to get better control over your sinus problems.

Which is it?

Both allergies and sinusitis can involve congestion of the nose and breathing passages, and both may cause runny nose, excess mucus, etc. But there are differences:

Allergies are the immune system fighting off foreign objects called allergens. Upper respiratory allergies commonly involve:

  • watery or itchy eyes;
  • duration longer than a couple of weeks; and
  • disappearing symptoms in certain seasons, or when you change things in your environment such as swapping a feather pillow for a synthetic-filled one

Sinusitis is usually caused by a viral infection, such as a cold. It may also be caused by other infections, such as bacteria. It often involves:

  • pain behind the eyes, between the eyes, in the cheeks or forehead, or behind the teeth;
  • loss of taste and smell;
  • non-clear mucus; and
  • constant fatigue

It makes a difference whether your symptoms are being caused by allergies, a virus, or bacteria, because the best treatment is different in all three cases. If you take cold decongestants for allergic reactions, for example, even though it may help in the short term, it will likely not be effective in the long term. If you take antibiotics for a cold, it will be ineffective, because a cold is caused by a virus and antibiotics don’t work on viruses. (They only work on bacterial infections.) To figure out the cause and determine the best course of treatment for your sinus symptoms, we don’t recommend self-diagnosing; talk to a doctor instead.

Seeing the doctor

If you have sinus symptoms and you’re not sure what’s causing them, it may be time to see an ear-nose-and-throat doctor, also known as an ENT. ENT doctors have extensive, specific knowledge and experience of the sinuses. They will ask questions and perform tests that will lead to diagnosis and treatment, helping you breathe easier at last. Talk to your doctor for more information.


Why find an ENT physician ?

If you suffer from chronic sinus infections, you may need to see an ENT physician, who is also called an ear, nose, and throat doctor or an otolaryngologist. These specialized physicians are experts in both the medical and surgical management of chronic sinusitis.

Intersect ENT makes information about physicians and facilities that offer PROPEL® sinus stents available. Physicians and facilities are listed based upon proximity to the zip code you have entered.

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Safety Information

The purpose of the site is to help create awareness about sinusitis and treatment options for the disease. Please note that information contained on this site is not medical advice. It should not be used as a substitute for speaking with your physician. Always talk with your physician about diagnosis and treatment information.

The PROPEL sinus implants are intended for use after sinus surgery to maintain patency and to locally deliver steroids to the sinus mucosa: PROPEL for use in the ethmoid sinus, PROPEL Mini for use in the ethmoid sinus and frontal sinus opening, and PROPEL Contour for use in the frontal and maxillary sinus ostia. The implants are intended for use in patients ≥18 years of age. Contraindications include patients with intolerance to mometasone furoate (MF) or a hypersensitivity to bioabsorbable polymers. Safety and effectiveness of the implants in pregnant or nursing females have not been studied. Risks may include, but are not limited to, pain/pressure, displacement of implant, possible side effects of intranasal MF, sinusitis, epistaxis, and infection. For complete prescribing information see IFU at www.IntersectENT.com. Rx only.

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