Sinus problems seem to vary with the seasons. Allergies are more the problem in spring and summer. Sinus infections are more a winter problem.
Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. You know it as a sinus infection. Inflamed sinuses become blocked and fill with fluid. This is when irritation turns into an infection, as the fluid allows germs to grow and flourish.
People can confuse allergies with sinus infection, but they’re not the same. Dr. Volpi treats sinusitis and allergies at New York ENT.
Is it a sinus infection or simply allergies?
When spring rolls around and pollen and other allergens are everywhere, you may have a stuffy nose and maybe a slightly scratchy throat for weeks. Because it’s enduring, you know it’s not a cold, but is it a sinus infection or allergies? While both cause irritation and swelling in the sinuses, the reasons are different.
When allergies kick up, the passages of your nose and sinuses swell because they’re reacting to allergens. They are basically trying to flush out the invaders, the allergens.
Sinusitis usually develops because of allergies or a cold, and the sinuses get inflamed. That blocks mucus from draining, which can lead to development of an infection.
The symptoms are different. If you’re suffering from, say, a reaction to elm tree pollen in Central Park, you’ll have a runny nose, sneezing, watery itchy eyes, and maybe some wheezing. If it’s sinusitis, the symptoms will be more involved: thick, colored mucus; painful, swollen feeling around your forehead, eyes, and cheeks; headache or pain in your teeth; post-nasal drip; bad breath; cough and sore throat; fatigue; and possibly a light fever.
When sinusitis becomes chronic
Acute sinusitis lasts up to four weeks. Chronic sinusitis lasts several weeks and can flare up on and off for years. Sometimes sinusitis is due to problems with the structure of the nasal passages, or a growth such as a nasal polyp that keeps the sinuses from draining properly. Chronic sinusitis demands a visit to see us at New York ENT.
If a bacterial infection is behind your inflammation, Dr. Volpi will prescribe antibiotics for 10-14 days to eliminate the infection. Antibiotics won’t improve sinusitis caused by viruses or structural problems. From there, decongestants, allergy medications, even steroids may be used. For those with chronic sinusitis, surgery to remove blockages and enlarge the sinus passages may be the best, and most successful, option.