Allergies or Sinuses: How to Tell the Difference

It’s not easy to tell whether you’re 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.

It’s important to know what’s causing the symptoms, as the treatment will differ in both these cases. You shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t 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.

Sinuses or Allergies?

Sinus infections generally trigger a sudden onset of sinus and nasal problems, and quite often these are entirely resolved within 3 to 5 days. In such scenarios, the only kind of medical treatment you need is for whatever symptoms you are experiencing, and your doctor can match up medications to symptoms for the most effective relief. When the collection of symptoms that you’re experiencing persists beyond one week, it is far more likely to be a bacterial infection, and in that situation antibiotics are indicated as a treatment.

When the onset of your symptoms coincide with a known increase in local allergens, e.g. high volume of mold, and the condition lasts for several weeks or longer, it’s much more likely to be an allergic reaction. This being the case, the indicated treatment would be your normal allergy medications.

When the set of symptoms that you are experiencing goes on and on, lasting for months at a time, but they do not coincide with any ongoing allergy season, this situation is far more likely to be a chronic sinus infection. In some cases, even antibiotics will not clear this up, and your sinuses may resist any kind of medications you might use to alleviate symptoms. When the whole gamut of medical solutions fails, i.e. antihistamines, decongestants, and antibiotics are all ineffective, then that’s a situation which may call for the most modern sinus treatment available: balloon sinuplasty.

Testing for Allergies

If you aren’t quite sure what you are allergic to, that kind of testing can be done in a doctor’s office in a procedure that lasts for roughly 30 minutes. It is helpful to know which substances you may be allergic to, because then you can do your best to remove these triggers from your immediate surroundings, so as to avoid any kind of encouragement for an allergic episode. The testing involved for allergies will not only tell you which substances you have an allergic reaction to, but it will also tell you what level of severity your reaction might be, i.e. mild, moderate or severe.

When it turns out that you are experiencing an allergic reaction to something, a pseudo-antidote can be prepared by your doctor as an allergy shot, which will relieve your symptoms fairly quickly. While this is likely to be a condition which recurs seasonally, you can at least anticipate when it will happen, and be prepared for managing any symptoms which develop during that time frame.

Balloon Sinuplasty

If your problem turns out to be a chronic sinus infection or congestion, the best approach might be to consult with your doctor about balloon sinuplasty. This is a minimally invasive procedure which can be performed in the doctor’s office in less than an hour, and without the need for general anesthesia. During this procedure, a small balloon is introduced into a nasal passageway and then inflated so as to relieve any narrow-ness, and then restore optimal flow through that passageway. The same process can be performed for each of the sinuses if necessary, and since there is no surgery involved at all, the recovery time for this process is very quick, with most patients being able to report to work the very next day.

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 won’t 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 you’re suffering from allergies or sinuses.

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