More than 50 million Americans experience allergies of some type every year, and it is estimated that 31 million Americans have sinusitis (sinus infection). It is clear that both conditions are very common. So, is there a connection between allergies and sinus infections? Yes—and here’s how it works.
What are sinus infections?
A sinus infection occurs when the sinuses—cavities around the nasal passages—become inflamed. Sinus infections can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (longer lasting). Both acute and chronic sinusitis can be caused by either bacterial or viral infections.
Symptoms of a sinus infection typically include:
- Headaches (in the front of your head or around your nose)
- Nasal stuffiness
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Postnasal drainage
How are allergies and sinus infections connected?
The common symptoms of seasonal allergies and sinus infections are often the same. Itchy, watery eyes are one of the only symptoms that may help you differentiate between the conditions; this symptom occurs with allergies but not with sinus infections.
Allergies may cause your nasal passages to swell. Sinus infections also involve inflammation in your nasal passages, in addition to swelling in the sinuses. If your nasal passages are swollen due to allergies and then develop an infection that is left untreated, a sinus infection may occur.
How are sinus infections diagnosed?
A sinus infection can be diagnosed by an allergist or ENT specialist. During an appointment at our office, our doctor will examine your nose, throat, and sinuses. We may also conduct testing to determine whether nasal swelling is caused by allergies. A CT scan of your sinuses may be recommended to determine where swelling is occurring and whether any structural abnormalities are present. These steps can help our ENT specialist determine whether you have a sinus infection.
How are sinus infections treated?
If the doctor determines that you have a sinus infection, he or she may recommend one of the following treatment options:
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Allergy medication (if your sinus infection is related to allergies)
- Saline nasal spray
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
What is a chronic sinus infection?
As mentioned above, sinus infections can either be acute or chronic. An acute sinus infection usually resolves in 7-10 days, although it may last for a couple of weeks. A chronic sinus infection, on the other hand, is when the condition lasts for more than 12 weeks (3 months). If you have chronic sinusitis, our specialist can help to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.
Should you see an allergist for sinus infections?
If you experience sinus infections, it is important to be evaluated by a specialist to determine the cause of the inflammation. When chronic sinusitis is not treated, it can lead to ear and upper and lower respiratory infections. To avoid this and to get relief from your sinus infections, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with our skilled allergist.
For more information about the connection between allergies and sinus infections, and to set up your appointment with our skilled specialist, we welcome you to contact us today at West River ENT & Allergy.