Allergies and sinusitis are both common conditions of the sinuses (the four paired cavities or the passages that lead to the nose). They often cause significant irritation to the sinus cavity while producing symptoms that negatively affect a person’s day-to-day routines and activities, such as fever and headaches. The symptoms produced from both conditions are often very similar and can get confused by sufferers.
There are various treatments for both conditions that can help to reduce (or eliminate) symptoms, although before we examine the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders let’s first understand the distinctions between the two.
Allergies vs. Sinusitis
Allergies are caused by the immune system’s response (or “reaction”) to something specific in the environment. Allergic reactions can be triggered by a variety of allergens, such as food, pollen, mold, latex, animals (dander/skin flakes/hair), dust, mites, household chemicals, metals, etc. Some allergies may only briefly cause a reaction and symptoms, while others can be experienced throughout a person’s life unless treatment is sought.
Sinusitis is the inflammation or swelling of the tissues in the sinuses. This condition can be caused by bacteria, fungus, allergens, or viruses that cause swelling and the blocking of sinus cavities. A few causes of sinusitis include:
- common cold or flu
- deviated septum
- seasonal allergies
- polyps in the nasal cavity
Although allergies and sinusitis share many symptoms, the following table can help you better understand some primary differences between these conditions:
|Itchy and watery eyes||✓||x|
|Pain in eyes and cheeks||x||✓|
|Thick, green/yellow nasal discharge||x||✓|
|Difficulty breathing through your nose||✓||✓|
|Unable to blow your nose||x||✓|
How are Allergies & Sinusitis Diagnosed?
Allergies are usually diagnosed in three steps by a healthcare professional or allergist:
The first step involves evaluating a patient’s medical history to understand and identify the allergen(s) causing the reaction. Patients are asked questions about family history, medications, and lifestyle/environmental factors involving work, home, and school.
The second step involves a physical examination where a healthcare professional or allergist will pay particular attention to the ears, nose, throat, eyes, chest, and skin to evaluate if/how allergies are affecting a patient.
The third, and final, step involves an allergy test(s) to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. There are several tests available to help with a diagnosis although not every test will prove effective in producing a correct diagnosis. These tests are an effective tool in a diagnosis, and can include:
- Skin Prick Test (SPT)
- Intradermal Skin Test
- Blood Tests
- Challenge Tests (supervised by a physician)
- Patch Test
The diagnosis of sinusitis is very similar to allergies:
The first step involves a meeting with a healthcare provider to review family history and ask questions to better understand a patient’s specific symptoms. The second step involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional, usually involving a endoscope to examine the ears, nose and throat for signs of infection, blockages, drainage, and/or swelling. These initial steps usually provide enough information for a diagnosis of sinusitis.
For more severe or complicated cases, a patient might be referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor. Additional tests might include a CT scan to understand any structural impediments or issues that might be causing inflammation and swelling of the sinuses.
Available Treatments for Allergies and Sinusitis
The treatment of allergies usually depends on the allergens or factors triggering them. Here is a list of common treatments for a wide range of allergies:
- Nasal steroids
- Oral steroids
- Epinephrine auto-injector
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Loratadine (Claritin)
The treatment of a simple case of sinusitis focuses on unblocking the sinuses and nasal passages to reduce the risk of any further inflammation and infection. Treatments include:
- Sinus flushes
- Steam inhalation
- Saline sprays
- Steroid sprays
- Nasal strips
If symptoms persist after 10 days, a healthcare provider will usually prescribe antibiotics, intranasal steroid sprays, and/or topical/oral decongestants to reduce the possibility that a nasal infection develops.
Long-term (or chronic) sinusitis can only be treated if the cause (usually allergies) is identified so a treatment plan can implemented to test its efficacy in reducing symptoms. For some severe conditions, surgical intervention is the last option to clear nasal/sinus cavities and reduce inflammation.
Urgent Care Services
If you are experiencing acute or persistent allergic reactions or sinusitis, Prime Urgent Care is here to help. We are a leading provider of urgent care services in Houston, TX who has experienced healthcare professionals, state-of-the art clinics, and diagnostic equipment to diagnose and treat most sinus-related issues and conditions.
- Review your health history and current condition
- Conduct a physical evaluation and understand your symptoms
- (If needed) Use diagnostic testing to understand the cause of the condition
- (If needed) Develop a treatment plan
- (If needed) Prescribe medication(s)
- (If needed) Provide an ENT referral for more complex cases
Our goal is always to provide a quick, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plans to get our patients feeling better quickly. If needed, we will refer our patients to specialists for more advanced evaluations, testing, and treatments.
Prime Urgent Care is open 7 days a week with extended hours on weekdays. We offer competitive self-pay rates and online check-in options for convenient scheduling. To schedule an appointment, visit us at https://primeuc.com/ or call us at (713) 340-3111.