Sinus Disease & Allergies
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis can be caused by an infection or an inflammatory process in the sinuses when the lining begins to swell and produce extra mucus. This causes symptoms of a stuffy nose, pain in the face, and yellow or green discharge (mucus) from the nose. Sinusitis is often the result of a cold because the germs which caused the cold will begin to also infect the sinuses. Many times, a person feels like his or her cold is getting better, but then he or she begins to feel sick again, this time with sinusitis.
What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Stuffy or blocked nose
- Thick yellow or green discharge from the nose
- Pain in the teeth
- Pain or pressure in the face – This often feels worse when a person bends forward.
People with sinusitis can also have other symptoms that include:
- Trouble smelling
- Ear pressure or fullness
- Bad breath
- Feeling tired
Most of the time, symptoms start to improve in seven to 10 days.
Should I see a provider or nurse?
See your provider or nurse if your symptoms last more than 10 days, or if your symptoms get better at first but then get worse. You should also see your doctor if you have:
- Fever higher than 102.5°F (39.2°C)
- Sudden and severe pain in the face and head
- Trouble seeing or seeing double
- Muddled thoughts
- Swelling or redness around one or both eyes
- Trouble breathing or a stiff neck
Seeing your provider in these cases can help prevent sinusitis from becoming a larger problem.
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?
Yes. To alleviate the pain of your symptoms, you can:
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce the pain
- Rinse your nose and sinuses with salt water a few times a day – Ask your provider or nurse about the best way to do this.
How is sinusitis treated?
Sinusitis is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so it does not need to be treated with antibiotic medicines—especially since it won’t kill a virus. Many people get over sinus infections without antibiotics.
However, some people with sinusitis will need treatment with antibiotics. If your symptoms of sinusitis have not improved after 10 days, ask your provider if you should take antibiotics. Your provider might recommend that you keep waiting to see if your symptoms improve, but if you have symptoms such as a fever or a lot of pain, he or she might prescribe antibiotics. It is important to follow your provider's instructions about taking your antibiotics.
What if my symptoms do not get better?
If your sinusitis symptoms do not get better, talk with your provider or nurse. He or she might order tests to figure out why you still have symptoms. These can include:
- CT scan or other imaging tests – Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
- A test to look inside the sinuses – For this test, a provider puts a thin tube with a camera on the end into the nose and up into the sinuses.
Some people suffer from numerous sinus infections or have symptoms that last at least three months. These people may have a different type of sinusitis called "chronic sinusitis." Chronic sinusitis can be caused by different things. For example, some people have growths in their nose or sinuses that are called "polyps," while other people have allergies that cause their symptoms.
If your symptoms still do not get better, you may need lifestyle modification, like quitting smoking. If it is an environmental allergy contributing to your sinus problem, you may be able to make other modifications like reducing your allergen exposure while you are at home or work.
Another solution for sinusitis is daily nasal saline washing to reduce symptoms. Rinsing your nasal passage with salt water before applying medications clears away mucus and reduces its interference with medications.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, or “hay fever,” are a group of conditions that can cause sneezing, a stuffy nose, or a runny nose. These symptoms are seasonal, meaning that they only occur only at certain times of the year. Most seasonal allergies are caused by:
- Pollens from trees, grasses, or weeds
- Mold spores, which grow when the weather is humid, wet, or damp
People without seasonal allergies will be able to breathe in these substances without issue. However, for those with allergies, their immune system will act as if the substance is harmful to the body.
Many people are first exposed to seasonal allergy symptoms when they are children or young adults. It is common for these allergies to run in families. Seasonal allergies are lifelong, but symptoms can get better or worse over time.
If you are experiencing symptoms like those of seasonal allergies, but your symptoms last all year, they may be caused by something else, like:
- Insects, such as dust mites and cockroaches
- Animals, such as cats and dogs
- Mold spores
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include:
- Stuffy or runny nose, sneezing
- Itchy or red eyes
- Sore/itchy throat and ears
- Waking up at night or trouble sleeping, exhaustion
Is there a test for seasonal allergies?
Yes. Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do an exam. Your provider might also order other tests, such as allergy testing, which can help identify what you are allergic to.
How are seasonal allergies treated?
People with seasonal allergies will typically use one or more of the following treatments to help reduce their symptoms:
- Nose rinses – Rinsing out the nose with salt water cleans the inside of the nose, ridding both pollen and mucus. Different devices are available to rinse the nose.
- Steroid nose sprays – Providers often prescribe these sprays first, but it can take days to weeks before they work. (Steroid nose sprays do not contain the same steroids that athletes take to build muscle). Steroid nose sprays work best when they are used every day. They are more effective than other allergy medications for congestion and postnasal drip, specifically.
- Antihistamines – Medications with antihistamines help stop itching, sneezing, and runny nose symptoms. However, some of these medications may cause drowsiness.
- Allergy shots – Some people with seasonal allergies choose to get allergy shots. These are weekly or monthly shots given to them by a provider. The shot contains trace amounts of allergens to treat their allergies. However, it can take months to work.
- Allergy pills (under the tongue) – For some types of pollen allergies, pills, which act similarly to the allergy shots, are available. They dissolve under the tongue and are taken every day for several months of the year.
Can seasonal allergy symptoms be prevented?
Yes. If your symptoms occur at the same time every year, talk with your provider or nurse about taking your medication a week or two before that time of year to prevent the symptoms.
You can also help prevent symptoms of allergies by avoiding the things you are allergic to. For example, people who are allergic to pollen can:
- Stay inside during the times of the year when they have symptoms
- Keep car and house windows closed, and use air conditioning instead
- Take a shower before bed to rinse pollen off their hair and skin
- Wear a dust mask if they need to be outside
If you have more questions regarding sinusitis or seasonal allergies, schedule an appointment with us.