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A Few Telling Clues for Each Condition

Thirty-seven million people suffer the inflammation or swelling of sinuses caused by sinusitis and another seven million are afflicted by chronic sinusitis.  But with an additional 40 million plagued by the frequent pain and discomfort of seasonal allergies, it can be difficult to decipher symptoms between them. Since medications for allergies and sinuses can be drastically different, a bit of self-examination is recommended before reaching for another bottle of over-the-counter medicine.

Sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throats, and headaches are all shared symptoms of seasonal allergies and sinus infections. Especially during the spring months, with the lingering cold virus still making its way through the population, and pollen suddenly filling in the air, it can be difficult to tell. But you’re not alone; a recent survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that most allergy patients could not tell the difference between allergy reactions and sinus infections. Out of the 600 asthma and allergy patients surveyed, about half of the patients self-diagnosed symptoms as allergies, when truly they were suffering from a sinus infection.

Some experts believe sinusitis develops as a complication of the common cold while allergies are simply due to an individual’s response to allergens in the environment. Key indications that it may be more than pesky allergens in the air are fever, colored nasal discharge, and facial or sinus pain. A doctor’s visit provides more granular testing and examination, like a nasal smear, to pinpoint what may be causing symptoms.

Health experts ask consumers and doctors to exert caution when diagnosing themselves or patients. Reports show that patients quite often take antibiotics when they believe they have a sinus infection, despite the actual cause being allergies or a cold. Antibiotics will not help in the case of allergies or a cold and taking antibiotics during these times can actually lessen the effect of antibiotics in the future.

Allergy Symptoms

  • Symptoms such as clear, nasal discharge and itchy, watery eyes point to allergies rather than the common cold or sinusitis.
  • Allergies occur more frequently during certain seasons such as spring or fall. By identifying allergens in the home or in the environment, a person may be able to understand the cause of an allergy. By removing the cause, it may lessen the symptoms or severity of the symptoms.
  • Allergies tend to last for several weeks, which is the first indication that it is not simply a cold.
  • Sinus infections are typically characterized by sudden cold-like symptoms that include facial pain and stuffiness.
  • Symptoms of sinusitis include congestion and greenish, yellow discharge coupled with tenderness in the sinus cavities (cheeks, upper jaw, and under or above the eyes). A fever clearly suggests sinusitis over seasonal allergies, and a doctor may prescribe antibiotics at that point.
  • Ultimately, sinusitis creates the feeling of exhaustion, fatigue, and heaviness in the head. Recent reports show that the body naturally creates approximately a liter or more of mucus every day, and due to sinusitis, this fluid becomes backed up in the sinus cavities.
  • The pain of sinusitis lasts more than 10 to 14 days, which is typically the normal duration of a cold. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & immunology (AAAI) says that bad tasting post-nasal drip, bad breath, and fatigue are additional symptoms of sinusitis. Overall, pain and discomfort may be more severe than allergies.
  • If anyone experiences the painful symptoms associated with sinusitis more than three times a year, doctors suggest it may be due to chronic sinusitis. In this case, patients should see a doctor or specialist who may be able to determine the best plan of action.
  • According to the Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI), chronic sinusitis symptoms last three months or longer. This means that the swollen, painful feeling around the forehead, eyes and cheeks associated with acute sinusitis last for elongated periods of time.

In any case of trying to understand symptoms, it is always recommended to consult a physician. The AAAI reports that the majority of sinus infections stem from a virus (such as a cold), with less than two percent considered bacterial. That means antibiotics may not help alleviate sinus infection symptoms, as antibiotics do not help viral infections. Additionally, the AAAI reports that those suffering from frequent allergies are more likely to suffer sinus problems. Ultimately, it is best to truly understand your symptoms in order to properly treat the illness. Consult a physician, expert or pharmacist with any questions.

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