Do You Have Seasonal Allergies…or Sinusitis?

Spring is well underway now in Nevada and across the U.S. Unfortunately, many people in Las Vegas are experiencing the seasonal onslaught of springtime allergies…or at least they think they are. In many cases, the symptoms attributed to allergies are actually the result of chronic sinus infections. Learning to tell them apart can result in quicker relief.

Distinguishing Between Symptoms

spring flowers

Seasonal allergies affect over 50 million Americans. Symptoms include itchy eyes, nose and throat; watery eyes; stuffy or runny nose; coughing; sneezing; hoarseness; post-nasal drip; irritability and fatigue. These are the immune system’s response to environmental triggers such as pollen, mold spores, and animal dander.

However, sinus infections – termed “sinusitis” medically – cause nearly identical symptoms. This makes diagnosis challenging and can cause symptoms to linger, especially when you are treating the wrong condition.

The best way to tell them apart is to take note of when and how often you are experiencing symptoms. Those associated with allergies usually come on shortly after you make contact with the allergen and are most common in the spring and fall months (though they can happen any time of the year).

Sinusitis often follows a cold or allergies. It is the result of inflammation of the cavities around the nasal passages. In addition to the symptoms listed above, sinusitis sufferers often experience facial pain and pressure – and symptoms last longer than those associated with allergies. Sinusitis is deemed chronic when symptoms persist for longer than 12 weeks.

Solutions for Treating Sinusitis and Allergies

Las Vegas ENT doctors recommend trying over-the-counter medications to treat allergy symptoms first. If there are no signs of improvement, prescription drugs might be advised. When those fail to provide relief, immunotherapy (allergy shots or oral droplets) often prove to be a long-term solution; they work by helping your body build up a tolerance to the allergen trigger over a period of time.

Sinusitis is treated similarly in the beginning. Antihistamines and decongestants are usually prescribed first, along with nasal sprays and corticosteroids. Home remedies such as warm compresses, humidifiers and vaporizers may bring relief. If symptoms don’t clear up, surgery may be recommended.

The type of procedure depends upon the severity of your symptoms and any underlying structural issues such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps. Two surgical procedures are available: functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) and Balloon Sinuplasty. FESS requires inserting a thin, flexible tool mounted with a small camera lens into your nasal passages; the camera transmits images to your surgeon, who is able to remove any blockages that are causing obstruction. Balloon Sinuplasty, by contrast, is less invasive and requires no removal of tissue or bone. A catheter with a small balloon attached to the end is pushed through the nasal passages into the sinus cavity, where it is gently inflated. This enlarges the cavity to allow fluids to drain. Balloon Sinuplasty is intended for patients without physical obstructions.

If you are experiencing the symptoms and can’t tell whether they are related to seasonal allergies or a sinus infection, schedule an appointment with your Las Vegas ear, nose and throat specialist for an appropriate diagnosis.