Sinus infections can develop due to various reasons, including allergies. So yes, allergies can turn into a sinus infection. Allergies and sinus infections share some similarities, but also have specific symptoms.
It is important to understand the difference between these symptoms. You may need different treatments to manage certain forms of sinus infection. There can be a lot of confusion around sinus infections, allergies, and colds. The common cold is often mistaken as allergies and vice versa. Either way, colds, and allergies could lead to a sinus infection.
Allergies develop when your immune system overreacts to allergens. The immune system produces antibodies that identify an allergen as dangerous, even if it’s harmless. When in contact with an allergen, the immune system responds by attacking it. This leads to inflammation of the sinuses, airways, skin, or digestive tract.
Causes of a Sinus Infection
A sinus infection – or sinusitis – is an infection of the sinuses. Most often, it is triggered by a common cold, which is considered a virus. These include rhinoviruses, influenza viruses, and parainfluenza viruses. Influenza viruses, which are responsible for the flu, can also cause sinusitis. These viral infections of the sinus usually resolve in ten days.
Bacteria can also cause sinus infections. These includeS. pneumoniae, H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis, S. pyogenes, S. aureus, and various fungi can cause a sinus infection, as well.
Why do allergies can cause sinus infections? Allergic reactions cause excess histamine and inflammation, which irritate the nose and sinuses. The common cold also causes inflammation and irritation of the nose and sinuses. Once the sinus cavities are irritated and inflamed, they can easily become infected.
The Difference Between Allergies and Sinus Infections
Allergies and sinus infections have many of the same symptoms. Both manifest nasal congestion, difficulty breathing through your nose, headaches, coughs, and fatigue. These may also alter your sense of smell.
However, there are different symptoms that come with allergies and sinus infections. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, watery, itchy eyes, and watery swollen eyes. These symptoms typically aren’t seen when the sinuses become infected.
Sinus infection symptoms include pain or tenderness around the cheeks and eyes. This typically feels worse when bent over. Sinus infections also cause thick yellow or green discharge from the nose, tooth pain, fever, and bad breath. These symptoms are not associated with simple, uncomplicated allergies.
A Common Cold Can Mimic Both Allergies and Sinus Infections
Nasal congestion, sneezing, and a thick whitish or thin discharge are well-known cold symptoms. Fever, headaches, and facial pain or pressure sometimes occur. Unlike sinus infections, the common cold does not usually cause tooth pain.
The duration of a cold is usually up to 10 days and this viral infection is more common during the cold season. Meanwhile, sinus infections can be treated with antibiotics and allergies with antihistamines.
Sinus Infection Complications
Sinus infections can become complicated with chronic sinusitis. This typically lasts for 12 or more weeks. It has the same symptoms of a sinus infection but could have complications with nasal polyps or a deviated septum.
Another rare complication of a sinus infection is meningitis. This is an infection of the membrane and fluid that surround the brain and spinal cord. The infection can also cause vision problems if it spreads to the eye socket. It can also cause skin or bone infections as well.
It’s essential to seek medical treatment if you experience the following symptoms:
- Stiff neck
- Pain and swelling around the eyes
- High fever
- Vision changes
Preventing Sinus Infections
It is always better to prevent sinus infections than treat them. You can prevent them by avoiding respiratory infections like colds and the flu. Also, avoid allergens that could trigger symptoms.
It’s essential to be conscious of the air you breathe as well. Avoid polluted air and cigarette smoke.
You can also use a humidifier at home to moisten the air. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold buildup. This could aggravate both allergies and sinusitis.
A doctor will make the diagnosis of sinus infection based on your symptoms and physical exam. If allergies are the underlying problem, getting allergy skin tests can identify triggers. Your doctor may recommend lab tests or CT scans in certain cases.
Sinus Infection Treatment
Most sinus infections are self-limited and get better on their own. There are treatments that can help relieve symptoms. These include saline nasal sprays, nasal corticosteroids, and decongestants. Keep in mind that you should only use decongestants for a few days. You can also use these to treat allergy symptoms.
If the bacteria causes the sinus infection, doctors use the “watch and wait” approach. They prescribe antibiotics only if the symptoms worsen. If prescribed antibiotics, take them as recommended for the entire course – even if you’re feeling better. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics if you experience fever, symptoms lasting longer than a week, or chronic sinusitis.
There are other treatment options if your doctor determines allergies caused the infection. You may want to consider getting allergy shots to tolerate allergens.