Pay Close Attention To Symptoms To Determine If Cause Is Sinus Infection Or Allergies
Dear Mayo Clinic:
I have long suffered from allergies. But there have been times when I haven’t been sure if my symptoms are really from my allergies or may be caused by a sinus infection instead. How can I tell the difference?
Allergies and sinus infections are often mistaken for one another. But they are two separate conditions. By paying close attention to the specific symptoms you have, you can usually identify which one is more likely to be causing the problem.
A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, affects the cavities around your nasal passages. The infection causes your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen. The swelling makes it hard for your sinuses to drain, and mucus builds up. You become congested and have trouble breathing through your nose. Sinusitis often causes thick yellow or green nasal discharge. A sore throat, cough or headache, as well as pressure or tenderness around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, may also accompany sinusitis.
In most cases, viruses cause sinusitis. These viral infections usually go away on their own within a week to 10 days. Self-care measures such as extra rest and fluids along with over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants can help. When sinusitis is caused by bacteria, the infection may not require treatment, either. But if it is persistent or severe, then antibiotics such as amoxicillin, doxycycline and others may be used to treat the infection.
Why Should You Treat A Sinus Problem
Some sinus problems will clear up without needing medication or treatment. Drinking water and rest can lead to the gradual easing of symptoms, but a more serious sinus problem could result in further issues. The build-up of mucus could cause a sinus infection that will only exacerbate the problem. In fact, an ear infection may be the side effect of congestion behind the eardrum. Also, mucus drainage down the throat could cause a sore throat and persistent cough.
Is It A Sinus Infection A Cold Or Allergies
Your nose is stuffed and your head is pounding. Here’s how to tell if a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection is to blame.
A stuffy nose and headache are common symptoms of many illnesses. So how can you tell whether the culprit is a sinus infection, a common cold, or allergies when the symptoms of these three conditions are so similar?
“It can sometimes be difficult even for doctors to differentiate,” says Alan B. Goldsobel, MD, an allergist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northern California and an adjunct associate professor at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, California. But there are some key differences that can give you some clues. Get to know more about the symptoms of these three conditions to help you pinpoint the cause of your sinus congestion:
A Sinus Infection
- What it feels like: You can expect a stuffy nose, but also some runny, discolored mucus, Goldsobel explains. You may also experience a sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, or fatigue. Another sign is a rising temperature: Colds often trigger a fever, he says, but sometimes those fevers are so mild that people think they have allergies instead.
- What triggers it: A virus.
- How long it lasts: People usually fend off the cold virus within seven to 10 days, Baroody says. But if your symptoms have lingered past that window of time, you might have sinusitis. If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you should talk to your doctor.
An Allergic Reaction
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How Do You Treat Allergy Headaches
If your allergy headache is caused by a food allergy, you should avoid the food that you are allergic to and see a doctor, as food allergies can sometimes be fatal. On the other hand, there are foods that you can eat that are said to help relieve your allergies. Omega-3s are great for allergies because they help to fight inflammation. When pollen is high, horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard help keep your airways clear. All of these may act as natural, temporary decongestants.
If your allergy headaches are caused by seasonal allergies, there are several over the counter allergy medications, like antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids, that you can take to help relieve them. Your doctor may also give you allergy shots for your allergies.Furthermore, there are several natural ways that you can relieve allergies, and thus relieve your allergy headache.
Some examples include using a neti pot, using nasal saline spray, using a humidifier, and inhaling steam. If you have a sinus headache, the best way to get rid of it is to treat the inflammation. If you have a bacterial infection in your sinuses that is causing the headache, your doctor can prescribe you some antibiotics.
If you suffer from frequent allergy headaches, it may be beneficial to visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Contact Silverstein Institute today to schedule an appointment.
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What Causes Mucus In Eye And How To Get Rid Of It
Eye discharge is a combination of oil, mucus, skin cells, and other debris accumulating at the corners of your eyes during sleep. Sometimes it can be wet and sticky, and at other times it may be dry and crusty.
Although eye discharge may gross you out and be annoying to clean every morning, it actually has a protective function, removing waste products and potentially harmful debris from the tear ducts.
Eye discharge is formed while youre asleep because, during the day, frequent blinking bathes the eyes, preventing the mucus from accumulating. When we sleep, we do not blink, so the mucus piles up.
A small amount of eye discharge upon awakening is normal, but excessive mucus or a weird coloryellow or greencould indicate a serious eye problem.
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Allergies Sinuses And How They Can Cause Jaw Pain
As any sufferer knows, allergies can wreak havoc on your body. In addition to the well-known sneezing, sniffling, and red watering eyes, you may experience postnasal drip, coughing, and fatigue.6 Allergies can also clog the sinuses. Because of that, they could be the source of your nagging jaw pain.7
You probably identify sinus problems with nasal pressure. But allergies can cause lower jaw pain as well as the feeling of general pressure, especially if maxillary sinuses are obstructed. Inflamed and swollen sinuses can affect a number of areas of the face and head and result in issues ranging from headaches and earaches to facial tenderness near the eyes and nose that radiates to the jaw.8
Its possible that seasonal allergies could cause jaw pain in other ways, although more research is needed on the subject. Frequent sneezing and coughing force the mouth open which could lead to muscle tension and overuse strain and create issues with the jaw. Similarly, a stuffy nose may make you breathe through your mouth at night. If your jaw is strained open all night, it makes sense that you could wake up with jaw discomfort.9
- Your cheeks may become tender, and the pain may radiate to your jaw and teeth.
- The top of your head may also hurt.
- The pain can be dull to intense.
- Its usually worse when you lie down and better when you sit or stand upright.
Which Allergies Cause Headaches
Here are some of the common allergies that can lead to headaches:
- Allergic rhinitis . If you have a headache along with seasonal and indoor nasal allergies, its more likely due to a migraine headache rather than allergies. But pain related to hay fever or other allergic reactions may cause headaches due to sinus disease. A true sinus headache is actually quite rare.
- Food allergies. There can be a relationship between food and headaches. For example, foods like aged cheese, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate can trigger a migraine in some people. Experts believe its the chemical properties of certain foods that trigger the pain, as opposed to a true food allergy.
- Histamine. The body produces histamines in response to an allergic reaction. Among other things, histamines decrease blood pressure . This can result in headache.
Treat an allergy headache the same way that youd deal with any other headache. If allergies are the source of the headache, there are ways to address the root cause.
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What Is Barometric Pressure
Barometric Pressure is, in short, how the weight of the atmosphere is measured. This can be lower or higher depending on the air’s density and moisture content, temperature, altitude, and more. One of the more obvious environmental signs of barometric pressure is rain. This occurs when the atmospheric pressure decreases, causing air to rise and condensation to occur – which falls back to earth as rain.
What Types Of Adverse Reactions Are Caused By Sulfites
Asthma symptoms are the most common adverse reactions caused by sulfites:
- Wheezing, chest tightness and coughing are estimated to affect 5-10% of people with asthma.
- Symptoms are more likely when asthma is poorly controlled.
- Adverse reactions to sulfites can occasionally occur when there is no preceding history of asthma.
Sulfites can also cause allergy like reactions , with symptoms such as wheezing in people with asthma, allergic rhinitis , and urticaria .
In very rare cases it is possible that sulfites may have caused anaphylaxis, the most severe type of allergic reaction. Symptoms include flushing, fast heartbeat, wheezing, hives, dizziness, stomach upset and diarrhoea, collapse, tingling or difficulty swallowing.
Many of these reactions when fully assessed have been found not to be anaphylaxis, or caused by triggers other than sulfites.
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Can Allergies Cause Ear Infections
Allergies can also lead to the development of ear infections. People who have seasonal or year long allergies are more likely to experience ear infections than those without.
Environmental allergies can irritate the eustachian tube, which runs from the middle ear to the throat. The eustachian tube helps balance pressure between the outer and inner ear.
An allergy can cause swelling around the eustachian tube, which can prevent fluid from draining away from the middle ear.
If this fluid collects behind the ear drum, it increases the risk of bacteria and viruses growing in the fluid. These bacteria and viruses can cause an ear infection in the middle ear.
Symptoms of a middle ear infection can appear suddenly and may include:
What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Sinus Infections And Allergies
There are many signs and symptoms of sinusitis and sinus infections. The following is a summary of predominant ones that may occur. Most patients have several signs and symptoms at the same time. Others may have some symptoms that are intermittent most do not have all symptoms at once. The signs and symptoms of a sinus infection or sinusitis include the following:
Allergic rhinitis is the correct term used to describe the allergic inflammation of the nasal passages. Rhinitis means “inflammation of the nose” and is a derivative of rhino, meaning nose. Allergic rhinitis that occurs during a specific season is called “seasonal allergic rhinitis.” When it occurs throughout the year, it is called “perennial allergic rhinitis.” Rhinosinusitis is the medical term that refers to inflammation of the nasal lining as well as the lining tissues of the sinuses. This term is sometimes used because the two conditions frequently occur together.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, frequently include
- nose, eye itching, and
- excess tear production in the eyes.
Many people with allergies have difficulty with social and physical activities. For example, concentration is often difficult while experiencing allergic rhinitis symptoms.
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Why Are Sinus Headaches And Migraines Confused For One Another
So, the answer to the question, Can you have sinus pressure but now congestion? is: not likely. But you can have a migraine whether youre congested or not, and this is where the main point of confusion arises.The root cause behind migraines is still up for debate. However the prevailing theory is that migraines are caused by neurological issues in the brain. Even so, the symptoms of sinus pressure can overlap with symptoms of a migraine. For example, patients suffering from either sinus pressure or migraines can experience drainage, watery eyes, and of course, facial pain.
It is a commonly held belief that people who experience migraines have pain on the one side or the otherof their head. While this idea is true for many individuals, many others experience pain in their cheeks and forehead ie, in the exact same place where you would experience sinus pressure. And some people experience sinus pressure on one side of their head.People who experience migraines also frequently claim that factors such as weather changes, allergies, and congestion can act as triggers for their headaches contributing factors also shared with sinus headaches.
Diagnostic Criteria Of Diseases Associated With Sinus Headache: Neurology And Otolaryngology Guidelines
There are two main systems of classification and diagnostic criteria for sinus headache. The vast majority of sinus headache patients fulfill the International Headache Society diagnostic criteria for migraine , some of them for chronic migraine, the most common form of chronic daily headache. The International Classification of Headache Disorders, third edition , published by the IHS in 2013, defines chronic migraine as headache on 15 or more days per month for more than 3 months. On at least 8 days during the month, the headaches should have migraine features with or without aura and/or should respond to migraine drug treatment in addition, a secondary cause of chronic headache must have been ruled out . Migraine may be diagnosed after the fifth attack of headache lasting 4 to 72 h if the headaches have at least two of the following characteristicsa unilateral location, a pulsating quality, moderate or severe pain intensity, and aggravated by or causing avoidance of routine physical activityplus at least one of the following: nausea and/or vomiting, photophobia, and phonophobia, not better accounted for by another ICHD-3 diagnosis.
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What Does An Allergy Headache Feel Like
When you experience a headache caused by allergies, you may feel them in any of these spaces within your sinuses. It may even feel like your face, rather than your head, is what really hurts. You may have pain in the cheeks that radiates to your jaw and teeth. You may feel pain on the top of your head.
Allergies may also trigger a migraine headache. This type of headache may include throbbing, and is usually felt on one side of the head. You may find that the pain gets worse in sunlight or that you also feel nauseated.
The skull has a series of connected, hollow spaces known as sinuses, which are lined with soft tissue and a layer of mucus. These sinuses help humidify and filter the air you breathe, and help drain the nose. Allergy symptoms often appear in the sinuses, like when your nose is running or stuffed up.
Some of the spaces that make up the sinuses are found in the:
- Between or behind the eyes
- Behind the nose
You may experience headaches and pain if your sinuses are swollen or their openings are obstructed. This often happens with allergies. Swelling and blockage in the sinuses can prevent normal drainage and airflow, causing a buildup of pressure. Other allergy triggers, such as smoke or certain foods, can lead to headaches.
The degree of pain from an allergy headache can vary widely, from dull to almost debilitating. The level of pain may also change with your position, such as whether you are standing or lying down.
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Related Sinus Conditions & Problems
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How You Can Find Relief
Its important to review your sinusitis symptoms and how long youve been having them with a physician. Teladoc doctors can help you determine the possible cause of your symptoms, especially if youre concerned you may have COVID-19. If your sinus problems are caused by allergies, there are strategies and medications that can help bring relief. While bothersome mucus is often an effect of a viral infection, a bacterial infection can develop after a virus has taken hold. In this case, oral antibiotics can help with healing.
Regardless of whats causing all this congestion, try to put the to-do list aside and get some rest. If youre having pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Petroleum jelly can soothe a sore nose on the outside, while nasal drops or a nasal irrigation device can help flush out nasal passages on the inside. Treat and blow each nostril separately, Dr. Hood says.
Also, dont forget about all that mucus youre losing: Moisture should play a key role in your return to good health. Drink plenty of liquids like water, juice, warm broth or soup, Dr. Hood says, and use a cool-mist humidifier to soothe the airways, especially when sleeping. Steam from hot showers can help reduce inflammation and make breathing easier. Also try a warm compress on the nose, cheekbones or forehead for relief from sinusitis symptoms, he adds.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining. The pain is usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, facial swelling, sinus pressure and sinus congestion.
Whether your headache symptoms can actually be attributed to the sinuses will need to be determined by your doctor. If your sinus headache is caused by a sinus blockage, such as an infection, you will likely have a fever.
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