Stuffy noses are nothing short of a nuisance, and if you’re constantly congested, it’s easy to assume you’re dealing with either allergies or chronic sinusitis. Unfortunately, chronic sinus infections share many of the same symptoms as allergies 一 and both conditions require different treatments.
Board-certified ENT physician Dr. Conrad McCutcheon wants you to know that effective allergy and sinus treatments are available at Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing in Houston, Texas. So no matter what’s causing your stuffy nose, we can help.
Here are the key differences between allergies and sinus infections.
Do you have allergies?
If you’re constantly sneezing and dealing with nasal congestion, you may be dealing with either allergies or a chronic sinus infection. Allergies, sometimes called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are a common medical condition affecting over 400 million people around the world.
Hay fever is a particular type of allergy to pollen from trees, weeds and grasses. It is triggered when pollen released into the air ends up in your nose and throat. It causes IgE-mediated inflammation in the lining of your nose. Exposure to allergens in general can cause:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
Allergies can also affect parts of your body besides your nose. You may experience itchy, watery eyes, a sore throat (from nasal drainage), coughing, and even headaches.
Seasonal allergies tend to worsen during certain times of the year. Common springtime allergies include tree and grass pollen, and common fall allergies include ragweed. Unlike seasonal allergies, perennial allergies aren’t limited to a particular time of year. Examples of perennial allergies include dust mites, pet dander, and mold.
Do you have a sinus infection?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue that lines your sinuses. If your sinuses (which are normally filled with air) become clogged with mucus, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. There are many reasons why your sinuses might become swollen and clogged, including:
- A common cold
- Nasal abnormalities such as a deviated septum
You might suspect you have a sinus infection if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Runny nose
- Facial pain
- Loss of sense of smell
- Jaw pain
Unlike allergies, sinus infections typically don’t cause itchy or watery eyes.
Can you have allergies and a sinus infection at the same time?
It’s possible to have allergies but not a sinus infection, and it’s also possible to develop sinus infections without having allergies. However, if you have nasal allergies, you’re more likely to develop a sinus infection. Getting your allergies under control can help reduce your risk of recurrent sinus infections.
Exploring your treatment options: Where do you start?
There are many at-home treatments you can try to reduce nasal congestion, but it’s important to know what the real problem is before you treat it. Dr. McCutcheon performs a comprehensive sinus exam to pinpoint the source of your discomfort.
If he suspects recurrent sinusitis, he may conduct an in-office sinus-optimized CT scan using the MiniCAT 2020™ to shed light on what’s causing your sinus infections. Additionally, allergy testing can confirm if you have allergies and what allergens are bothering you the most.
Once Dr. McCutcheon confirms whether you have sinusitis or allergies (or both), he reviews your treatment options, which could include:
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Allergy treatments, including oral antihistamines, steroid sprays, saline sprays, allergy shots, and allergy drops
- Chronic sinusitis treatments, including decongestants, nasal sprays, nasal and oral steroids, mucolytics and or procedures such as balloon sinuplasty.
Not sure if you’re dealing with allergies or a sinus infection? We’re just a call or click away. To schedule an appointment, call Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing at 281-822-3777, or you can request an appointment online anytime.