Difference Between Allergies and Sinusitis

By: | Updated: Jul-12, 2023
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Allergies symptoms and sinusitis are very similar, sharing some close correlations that make them hard to tell apart. If you’re not sure whether you are suffering from an allergy attack or experiencing sinusitis, then we can help you with the difference.  

Difference Between Allergies and Sinusitis

What Is Sinusitis?

Another name for sinusitis is sinus infection, which tells you pretty plainly what it is. Generally, viruses will cause these kinds of infections, which lead to inflammation in your sinus lining. The virus or bacteria that has gotten into a person’s body will react adversely with the sinus lining, creating an uncomfortable inflammation. 

The symptoms of a sinus infection may last for a few weeks, and they can get more severe in time. Allergies can last longer than that.

What Is an Allergy?

Allergy symptoms are triggered by your immune system. When an allergen gets into the body, that can bring on an allergy attack. These include dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. The allergen is a kind of irritant, and it often enters into the sinuses, so it can trigger some of the same kinds of reactions as a sinus infection. It is affecting the same area, in many instances.

What Are the Symptoms of Allergies? 

You can tell the difference between these two kinds of health problems by paying close attention to the symptoms. What kind of symptoms should allergy sufferers expect to deal with?

They may have a kind of malaise or sick feeling, similar to if they had a cold. They probably won’t experience any pressure or pain in the face like they would with an attack of sinusitis, but they will probably get some symptoms that originate in the sinuses. These  include the following:

  • Itching eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Irritated throat

They may also feel fatigued while experiencing these symptoms, and the tiredness can last much longer than the rest of the effects. 

What Are the Symptoms of Sinusitis?

If you have sinusitis, you may experience similar but different symptoms. Here is what to look for with this malady:

  • Post-nasal drip
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Coughing

The symptoms may persist for a while, whereas allergy symptoms often come and go as the environment changes or the weather fluctuates. Sinusitis sufferers may experience a nasal discharge that is thick and discolored rather than clear. They may also have trouble smelling and may experience halitosis (bad breath). 

How to Tell the Difference between Sinusitis and Allergies

As you can see, the list of symptoms for the two maladies is very similar, but there are some slight differences. Look at your full list of symptoms to compare. You can also look at their persistence, since sinusitis will not come and go like allergies will but will stick around until it is fully cleared up. 

What to Do about Allergies

You first have to find out what you are allergic to. You can experience an allergic reaction even if you do not have an allergy to any substance. You may instead have a sensitivity.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of the environment that is causing your allergic reaction, get some fresh air, and move yourself to a clean environment where allergens are less common. 

If allergy attacks are happening in your home, then you may need to do some serious cleaning. Consider getting professional cleaners to do a deep cleaning in your home to reduce allergens and other irritants. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to see your doctor about medication and about making lifestyle changes that will reduce your symptoms. 

What to Do about Sinusitis

Be sure to get treatment if your condition persists for longer than a week. It can be tough to live for a long period of time with these kinds of symptoms. Sinusitis is treated with oral steroids as well as saline rinses, which do a great job of clearing out your sinuses and reducing the inflammation. 

Check with your doctor if you have serious symptoms that are not clearing up on their own. Your doctor may be able to prescribe something stronger than what you can get over the counter. 

It is especially helpful to see a doctor if you have sinusitis that won’t go away. If it isn’t treated soon enough, it can cause a chain reaction that leads to further health problems. 

Treatment Is Not the Same

It is so important to know exactly what you are suffering from before you try to treat it. Both of these health conditions can present as a cold or flu. The symptoms are very similar between them. But if you are having an allergic reaction and take medication that is meant for treating a cold, it might alleviate some symptoms and yet not deal with the root problem of your allergies. If you have a sinus infection and take cold medicine or allergy medicine, you can also end up sidestepping the proper treatment and experience only some relief. You might not be getting the treatment your condition requires, which means that you will suffer with it longer than necessary. 

You should be properly examined by a medical professional to determine what you are suffering from. Then your doctor can recommend a course of treatment that will be effective and that will help to clear up the issues quickly. In the case of sinus infections, if you have them frequently, there could be a larger problem at work that needs to be dealt with. 

Knowing the difference between these two conditions means that you can get the help you need and treat them appropriately. A sinus infection may not call for housecleaning, whereas a major allergy attack can require extensive cleaning in the home to help prevent further attacks in the future. Once you know what kind of problem you are facing, you should deal with it quickly before it gets out of hand. Understanding the differences between these two is a great place to start. Your doctor will tell you where you go from there.  

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