It’s allergy season, and you’ve got nasal congestion, headache and scratchy throat. It must be allergies, right? Not so fast, it could be sinusitis, an infection of the sinuses, which is often misdiagnosed as allergies because the two illnesses have similar symptoms.
How are they similar?
Allergies and sinusitis may seem similar but actually are quite different. Here are symptoms they share in common:
•Nasal congestion or blockage.
•Nasal drainage either out of the nose or down the throat.
•Headaches and "sinus pain."
Adding to the confusion is the fact that allergy patients are more likely to have sinus infections than people who don't suffer from allergies. Often individuals with allergies and their doctors cannot tell the difference.
How are they different?
With chronic sinusitis, you may have:
•Pressure or headache.
•Nasal drainage or postnasal drip.
•Mucus (discolored or clear).
•Drainage down the back of nose and throat.
•Chronic cough/and or sore throat at night.
The symptoms of allergies may include:
•Constant runny nose.
•Swollen nasal passages.
•Scratchy palate and throat.
•Cough from postnasal drip.
Another difference is that allergy symptoms tend to disappear when you are away from the offending allergens whereas sinusitis symptoms persist over a long period of time.
A key difference is the appearance of the mucus. Allergy sufferers have thin mucus, clear or white in color. Individuals with sinusitis may have clear mucus but most often have thick, discolored and sometimes foul-smelling mucus.
Allergies often produce symptoms outside of the sinuses, including watery, itchy eyes, and itchy skin. In contrast, sinusitis may be accompanied by a toothache or pain between the eyes which may suggest an infection is taking place, rather than an allergic reaction.
How is treatment different?
Allergies can often be controlled with antihistamines. Sinusitis treatments differ depending on the severity and type of infection. Some may recover with rest and over-the-counter medications while others may need to see a physician for treatment.