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Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitis
Although Symptoms are Similar, Causes and Treatments can Differ

Both allergies and sinus infections can cause pain and pressure in the face and nose, headaches, and nasal irritation. Due to the similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. Because treatment of each problem can greatly differ, it is important to have a complete understanding of both the similarities and differences between the two.

Allergic Rhinitis Defined
Allergic rhinitis affects about 40 million people in the United States. Commonly
referred to as hay fever, allergic rhinitis is, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, an irritation of the nose caused by allergens.

There are two kinds of allergic rhinitis, seasonal and perennial. Tree, grass, or weed pollens or mold can trigger seasonal allergic rhinitis. Because pollen counts are typically high during the early spring and the fall, seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms often flare up during this time.

Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs continually throughout the year and is not based on the seasons. Perennial allergic rhinitis is usually caused by indoor allergens present all year round such as mold, pet dander, or dust mites.

Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy, congested nasal passages
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Cough due to nasal drainage
  • Tearing

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is associated mostly with repeated sneezing while perennial allergic rhinitis is more likely to trigger symptoms such as nasal congestion and postnasal drainage.

Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis
The most common treatment for allergic rhinitis is antihistamines, but decongestants and corticosteroids can be used to help symptoms. Decongestants are used to reduce nasal congestion while corticosteroids reduce the inflammation.

Sinusitis Defined
Sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the membrane of the sinuses. Sinusitis symptoms include pain, pressure, and nasal obstruction or discharge in the sinus area, but fever, bad breath, fatigue, dental pain, and cough can also occur.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis annually. Sinusitis can either be acute or chronic, depending on length of infection.

Chronic Sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis is sinusitis that usually lasts for three to eight weeks, but the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases notes that it can continue for months or even years.

Both asthma and allergies have been connected to the occurrence of chronic sinusitis but environmental factors such as damp weather and air pollutants can also affect people suffering from chronic sinusitis. Diseases that affect the immune system can trigger chronic cases of sinusitis because you body is more prone to infection, including sinus infection.

Acute Sinusitis
Acute sinusitis is a single, short-term case of sinusitis. The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery describes acute sinusitis as lasting for four weeks or more and possibly being present if a patient has two or more symptoms or they have thick, green or yellow nasal discharge.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases lists acute sinusitis as being caused by many things. Most cases begin as a common cold, caused by a virus. Colds do not cause sinusitis symptoms, but, rather, are the cause of the inflammation in the sinuses. This inflammation may increase the likelihood of developing acute sinusitis. Fungal infections and allergies can also trigger an acute sinus infection.

Because both allergic rhinitis and acute sinusitis can have similar symptoms it is best to discuss your symptoms with a doctor. Your physician can help you choose the best treatment options for your specific condition.

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