Is it allergies or a sinus infection?

May 6, 2022

It’s easy to mistake a sinus infection for seasonal allergies and vice versa. Here in Texas, the pecan trees are currently blooming, leaving those who are allergic battling stuffy noses and congestion wondering if their symptoms are due to allergies or something more.

What is the difference between an allergy and a sinus infection?

Allergies occur when your body reacts to a foreign substance like plant pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Allergy symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion

If you are allergic to pollen, you may develop allergic conjunctivitis or inflammation of the lining of the eye and experience red or watery eyes.

Sinus infections occur when fluid builds up in the sinus cavities of the face, allowing germs to over grow.

Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, though some can be caused by bacteria. Symptoms of a sinus infection can include a stuffy, runny nose, facial pain or pressure, post-nasal drip, cough, sore throat and possibly fever.

Managing an allergy

If you have allergies, use antihistamines for mild symptoms. If symptoms are more severe, you may benefit from using a decongestant for 2 – 3 days. Nasal steroids can help prevent and alleviate symptoms, ideally start using them 2 weeks in advance of the beginning of your allergy season.

Rinsing your nasal passages using a Neti-pot may also be helpful. You can make your own saline rinse by mixing ¼ teaspoon of salt into 2 cups of sterilized warm water.

Caring for a sinus infection

Most sinus infections resolve without the use of antibiotics within 7 – 10 days,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Operating Officer and practicing physician Dr. David Gude. “Getting extra rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil can help, though you should check with your doctor before using over-the-counter medications on young children.”

If you experience symptoms that last more than 2 weeks, it may be time to seek medical care. Physicians and providers can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan that will have you feeling better soon.

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