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HomeHealthWhat Is The Difference Between Allergies And Sinus Problems

What Is The Difference Between Allergies And Sinus Problems

Allergies Or Chronic Sinusitis Most Get It Wrong And Don’t Get Treated

Knowing the difference between allergies and sinusitis

With seasonal allergies, a self-diagnosis is often a misdiagnosis.

Allergies or Sinusitis?

May 23, 2011 — The pollen count is through the roof and once again, you have a stuffy nose, sinus pain, fatigue and reduced sense of smell and taste. Oh great, another bad allergy season, you think.

And you’d be wrong. These are the hallmarks of a sinus infection, not allergies, though most allergy patients can’t tell the difference, according to a recent survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

In an online survey of more than 600 asthma and allergy patients, researchers found that about half self-diagnosed their symptoms as allergies when really they had a sinus infection, or sinusitis.

Despite the fact that 70 percent of those surveyed most trust a primary care physician to correctly diagnose allergies or sinusitis, only 36 percent reported consulting a physician when they had symptoms of these conditions.

“This study highlights how often people diagnose themselves. We’re human. It’s a natural response to go online and come up with our own diagnosis, but 10 to 15 times a day I get patients coming in convinced they have X, when really they have Y,” says Dr. Stacey Silvers, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.

Sinus Infection vs. Allergies — How Do You Know?

Summary Sinus Vs Allergies

The main difference between sinus and allergies is that sinus is an anatomical structure whereas an allergy is a physiological derangement. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses. Since allergies and sinuses are related in a pathological sense, it is important to always consider the possibility of any allergic reactions giving rise to the symptoms of sinusitis without straightaway prescribing the antibiotics.

Allergies Or Sinuses: How To Tell The Difference

Its not easy to tell whether youre experiencing a sinus infection or symptoms which have resulted from your allergies. In many cases, the symptoms produced are very similar between these two causes, and both of them might well trigger headaches, persistent drainage throughout the day, excessive fatigue, noticeable congestion, nausea, and sinus pressure that makes your head feel like it might explode.

Its important to know whats causing the symptoms, as the treatment will differ in both these cases. You shouldnt feel bad if you cant tell the difference between allergy symptoms and sinus infections though more often than not, even skilled doctors have difficulty with making an accurate diagnosis. The only way you can really be sure about which is which is by evaluating other information in addition to the symptoms produced.

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So What Is The Difference Between Allergies And A Sinus Infection

In order for your Murrieta doctor to determine what you are suffering from, they will review your symptoms and perform a physical exam. There are two telling questions your doctor can use to differentiate between the conditions:

Do you have a headache, pressure or pain in the face and chronic fatigue?

Do you have watery or itchy eyes?

Pain and pressure in the face is the telltale sign of a sinus infection, while itchy, water eyes are most often a symptom of allergies.

You may be asking yourself why its so important for your Murrieta doctor to make the distinction between the two since many of their symptoms overlap. The reason is because the diagnosis affects the treatment plan.

Allergies are treated with antihistamines, decongestants and nasal or oral corticosteroids. For those looking for a longer-term treatment solution, they should talk to their Murrieta allergist about immunotherapy.

Sinus infection treatments depend on the severity of your symptoms. Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids can be used to rinse out your nasal passage, relieving the inflammation. Decongestants are useful for short-term relief excessive use of these drugs can actually worsen the symptoms. Antibiotics will be prescribed if you are suffering from a bacterial infection.

Experiencing any of these symptoms? Now is the time to do something about it. Contact your local Murrieta doctor to schedule an appointment today.

The Similarities And Differences

Is It a Cold, Allergies, or a Sinus Problem?

Before we get too deep into the specifics, its important to understand why allergies and sinus infections are often viewed as one in the same. The top reason is that they have extremely similar symptoms a runny nose could as easily be part of a sinus infection as part of allergies. However, thats not the only reason. Sometimes they cause one another. Sometimes they even have the same triggers, which makes identification even more complicated. Excess pollen in the air is the biggest example of this. Pollen triggers allergies, but it can also make breathing more difficult if you happen to have a sinus infection. Luckily, there are some key differences that can help you distinguish between sinus infections and allergies.

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Tips For Sinus And Allergy Relief

When allergy symptoms lead to sinus pressure and pain, you can take the steps below to avoid common allergens. If symptoms become severe, contact your doctor for allergy treatment.

Track Pollen

Weather services and the local news often have pollen forecasts. When you know allergens in the air will be high, stay inside or limit your exposure to the outdoors during certain seasonal periods of the year. The best time to go outside is after it has rained.

Wash Allergens Away

When you come inside, change clothes and consider taking a shower to remove allergens from your hair and skin. If not immediately, do this before sleeping so that you do not transfer allergens to your bed.

Filter Your Air

Air conditioners, especially when set to recycle internal air, can help limit outdoor allergens. You can also try a portable HEPA filter at home or work to reduce allergens in the air around you. Remember that open windows can let allergens in.

Chill Out & Relax

Try cooling your face to ease sinus pressure and pain by using an ice mask, bag of ice or cold compress on your eyes, nose and forehead. Relieving stress by gently massaging your neck and shoulders can help you relax and prevent sinus symptoms from feeling worse.

Try SUDAFED® for Symptom Relief

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Common Reasons To See An Allergist/ Immunologist Include:

  • And more

Putting it all together

Allergists/immunologists and ENTs often work together to maximize control of nasal/sinus congestion and its entirely possible you may require evaluation from both specialists. Allergists will often refer patients to ENTs when surgery is needed and ENTs often refer patients to allergists when a formal allergy assessment is required.

Allergies are not the only cause of nasal symptoms. So if you have a known structural problem or suspect one, then an ENT specialist would be a good first choice. But if you suspect that you have a sinus or breathing issues related to allergies or asthma, consider seeing a Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist who can help diagnose, treat, and effectively control your symptoms through non-surgical methods.

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Are Sinus Infections Common

Yes. Sinus infections are common, affecting 31 million people in the United States. There are two main forms of sinus infections, acute and chronic either can be viral or bacterial infections. An acute sinus infection can last from 10 days to eight weeks. Chronic infection often referred to as chronic sinusitis, can last even longer and continue for months.

When It Comes And When It Goes

Whatâs the Difference Between Allergies, a Common Cold, and a Sinus Infection?

If you have allergies, you’ll start feeling symptoms soon after you come into contact with the stuff you’re allergic to. Your symptoms keep up as long as you’re still surrounded by those triggers.

Allergies can happen any time of year. They may be “seasonal,” which means you get them only in the spring or fall. Or they may be year-round. For instance, you might be allergic to pets or mold, which can be a problem no matter the season.

Sinusitis usually happens after you’ve had a cold or allergies. But certain symptoms will keep going, even after your cold goes away. You’ll probably have a stuffy nose and cough for more than a week or two.

You may hear your doctor talk about two kinds of sinusitis: “acute” and “chronic.” There’s a simple way to tell them apart. If your symptoms last less than 4 weeks, it’s acute. If they go on for 3 months or longer, you have chronic sinusitis.

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Allergy And Sinus Treatment Options: Balloon Sinuplasty And More

What can you do to relieve allergy symptoms? The answer depends on the severity of your allergies and how you react to allergy treatment medicine. One of the newest and most effective ENT treatments for sinusitis is balloon sinuplasty.

What is balloon sinuplasty? Balloon sinuplasty is a revolutionary, minimally-invasive, in-office procedure that lasts less than 30 minutes and requires little to no recovery time. The procedure can provide fast relief from your allergy symptoms.

During the procedure, a small balloon is partially inflated in the nasal passageways to clear and expand them and restore healthy drainage.

For some, allergy treatment at home may be sufficient. These treatments can include oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, or neti pots. Others may choose to stay indoors as much as possible during allergy season, while others choose to pursue allergy shots.

Breathe Easy Spring Summer Winter And Fall With Balloon Sinuplasty At Sinus Solutions Of South Florida

The side effects of medicines can be frustrating, and many patients with chronic sinusitis and allergies dont find relief with allergy medications. However, staying cooped up indoors isnt a sustainable allergy and sinus treatment. Balloon sinuplasty offers a chance for long-lasting relief to these patients.

Dr. Bequer, a leading ENT doctor with locations in both West Palm Beach and Tampa, is one of Floridas premier balloon sinuplasty physicians. Call Sinus Solutions of South Florida at to request a consultation today and give your seasonal allergies the boot.

Related Sinus Conditions & Problems

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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Sinus Infections And Allergies

Sinus infection

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.

Allergies Vs Sinus Infection

Is It Sinusitis or Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergies can develop at any point in your life. While allergies tend to come up during childhood, its possible to develop allergies to new substances as an adult.

This type of reaction is caused by a negative response to a substance. Your immune system responds by releasing a chemical called histamine, which can then cause symptoms such as headache, sneezing, and congestion. Its also possible to feel foggy and develop a skin rash.

Severe allergies can lead to a cold-like condition called allergic rhinitis. With allergic rhinitis, you can have the above symptoms as well as itchy eyes. This itchiness is one of the key distinguishing factors between allergies and sinusitis.

A sinus infection, on the other hand, occurs when your nasal passages become inflamed. Sinusitis is most often caused by viruses. When the nasal cavity gets inflamed, mucus builds up and gets stuck, further compounding the problem.

Along with nasal congestion and headache, sinusitis causes pain around your cheeks and eyes. Sinus infections also cause thick, discolored mucus, and bad breath.

Compare the following symptoms to see if you have allergies or a possible sinus infection. Its also possible to have both conditions at the same time.


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Symptoms Of Sinusitis And Allergies

Sinusitis and allergies can cause swelling in the nasal passageways, leading to a stuffy nose, or congestion. They both can cause headaches and a feeling of pressure along the sinuses, resulting in pain on the face.

However, there are certain distinctions that can help determine whether youre experiencing an allergic reaction or sinusitis.

Allergies can come without warning or with seasonal changes. Sinusitis typically follows a cold or other viral infection.

A person might be having an allergic reaction if they have:

  • Symptoms that come and go or appear only at certain times of the year
  • Symptoms that appear only in specific situations, like at a pet store
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Watery, clear, or thin discharge from the nose
  • Constant sneezing

A person may have sinusitis if they experience:

  • Thick mucus thats yellow or green
  • Symptoms that do not seem related to particular locations or circumstances
  • Pain in the gums or above the teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Severe pressure in the face
  • A diminished ability to smell or taste
  • A fever

Is It An Allergy Sinus Infection Or Silent Reflux

by Alan S. Berger, M.D. | Nov 11, 2016 | GERD, LPR, Silent Reflux

The holidays are here again and whether your favorite food is turkey or apple pie, its going to be a problem if you suffer from reflux. We are heading into the home stretch of food-focused festivities and the only way you are going to enjoy them is if we help you get reflux under control.

The most common types of reflux are LPR and GERD. LPR stands for Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, or Silent Reflux, and GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Both are digestive diseases and both cause discomfort that needs to be properly diagnosed. Here are the signs and symptoms of each type of reflux.

LPR, or Silent Reflux, occurs when food or stomach acids flow back up into the voice box, throat, or even the sinuses. These areas can become inflamed because theyre not protected against the acid backflow. This backflow, or reflux, is manifested by esophageal sphincters, or muscle rings, that are not functioning properly and can happen whether you have eaten or not. Sometimes it can feel like an allergy, a sinus issue or even pulmonary disease. Most people do not experience the obvious signs and symptoms of heartburn or indigestion, which is why LPR is called Silent Reflux.

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So How Do I Know If Its Sinus Or Allergies

Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to an allergen like pollen or dust. A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, occurs when the nasal passage gets infected. The conditions can have similar symptoms like congestion and stuffy nose, but the conditions are quite different.

Its possible to have allergies at any point in your life even though they tend to be most common during childhood. Its also possible for allergies to lead to a condition called allergic rhinitis. With this condition, itchy eyes is a common symptom in addition to the other symptoms caused by a sinus infection or allergies. If itchy eyes is one of your symptoms, then your condition likely isnt sinusitis and likely is allergies. However, if pain around your cheeks and eyes is a symptom youre having, or possibly thick, discolored mucus, then you likely have a sinus infection.

Its actually possible to have both conditions at the same time. This can cause even more confusion, so its often best to get professional testing and treatment.

How Nasal Allergies Can Cause A Sinus Problem

How to tell the difference between Allergies, Sinus Infections, and COVID-19

Common allergens that irritate the nasal passages include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, dirt and so on. Allergic people will react to these allergens by producing chemicals such as histamines. In the nose, the result can be swelling of the inside nasal layer. The swelling may be incredibly painful and bring on cold-like symptoms due to excessive mucus production.

It can be tricky to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a problem caused by allergies. Both conditions can lead to overproduction of mucus and result in a runny nose or congestion. You may also feel sinus pressure from swelling of the nasal passages. Nasal allergies can sometimes lead to itchy eyes, which are less likely with an infection. Speaking to an ENT doctor in Johns Creek, Canton, or a nearby Georgia location will help with a diagnosis.

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What Is Sinus Infection

Sinus infection does not require a stage or time to happen. It simply happens when the nasal passage becomes inflamed. Most of the time, the sinus infection is caused by an external virus. When this happens, the nasal cavity inflames, and the mucus builds up even more and gets stuck, and this further elaborates the problem even more.

Symptoms of sinus infection are headache, congestion in the nasal cavity, pain in and around the cheeks and eyes. Another major symptom of sinus infection is thick and discolored mucus and problems in breathing. The sinus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics. You will have to take a full prescription as told by your doctor even if you start feeling better in a while.

Matching Treatment With Medical Condition

Obviously, the important point in determining which treatment is the right one is to correctly identify which medical condition you may be troubled with. While the symptoms from your allergies wont be helped at all by balloon sinuplasty, neither will your chronic sinusitis be helped by allergy medications or an allergy shot.

The key to all this is to consult with your doctor about exactly which symptoms you are experiencing, to have an understanding of what you are allergic to, and what triggers may be present in your household or extended environment. It is also helpful to be aware of local allergy seasons which may impact your health. The key elements to look for in any diagnosis of the cause for your symptoms are the actual duration of your symptoms, the possible presence of allergy season, and if necessary, a thorough examination by your primary care physician. Taken all together, these factors should provide a fairly clear diagnosis for whether youre suffering from allergies or sinuses.

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