Allergies or sinus infection quiz

Is It a Sinus Infection or a Cold? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

Over-the-counter decongestants can also be helpful, but Dr. Marshall says they should not be used for more than three days because some products can exacerbate congestion and raise patients blood pressure and heart rate.

Bacterial sinus infections typically last for about 14 days, but the use of antibiotics speeds up the recovery process by up to five days. Still, according to Dr. Bhattacharyya, about 70% of sinus infections resolve on their own, and many patients, like Lord, prefer to let them run their course.

RELATED: 10 Products to Help You Find Sinus Relief

“Antibiotics mainly help to speed up the healing process,” Dr. Bhattacharyya says. “But before antibiotics were around, people weren’t dropping dead of sinus infections—and they still aren’t.”

If left untreated, however, sinusitis can cause permanent damage to the sinuses and, in very rare cases, can lead to meningitis, Dr. Marshall says. If patients miss work or other activities due to sinus infections, or if their symptoms recur frequently, they should see a doctor for evaluation.

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Pay Close Attention to Symptoms to Determine if Cause is Sinus Infection or Allergies

April 12, 2013

Dear Mayo Clinic:

I have long suffered from allergies. But there have been times when I haven’t been sure if my symptoms are really from my allergies or may be caused by a sinus infection instead. How can I tell the difference?


Allergies and sinus infections are often mistaken for one another. But they are two separate conditions. By paying close attention to the specific symptoms you have, you can usually identify which one is more likely to be causing the problem.

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, affects the cavities around your nasal passages. The infection causes your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen. The swelling makes it hard for your sinuses to drain, and mucus builds up. You become congested and have trouble breathing through your nose. Sinusitis often causes thick yellow or green nasal discharge. A sore throat, cough or headache, as well as pressure or tenderness around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, may also accompany sinusitis.

In most cases, viruses cause sinusitis. These viral infections usually go away on their own within a week to 10 days. Self-care measures such as extra rest and fluids along with over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants can help. When sinusitis is caused by bacteria, the infection may not require treatment, either. But if it is persistent or severe, then antibiotics — such as amoxicillin, doxycycline and others — may be used to treat the infection.

Allergies can produce many of the same cold-like symptoms as a sinus infection, including sinus pressure, a runny nose and congestion. But the condition itself, called allergic rhinitis, is different. It is caused by an allergic response to allergens, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander. This reaction happens when your immune system releases chemicals, such as histamine, into your bloodstream. These immune system chemicals lead to your allergy symptoms.

One of the key ways to tell if you are experiencing allergic rhinitis is if you have itchy, watery eyes along with your other symptoms. Itchiness is rarely a symptom of a sinus infection. Another way to tell the difference is if you have very thick yellow or green nasal discharge. That is more likely a symptom of a sinus infection.

If you have seasonal allergies triggered by pollen or spores, then the timing of your symptoms may help you decide if they are likely caused by allergies. For example, tree pollen is most common in the spring. Grass pollen is common in late spring and early summer, while ragweed pollen is prevalent in the fall. Mold and fungi spores are usually more plentiful in warm-weather months. The seasons for these allergens may be different, though, depending on the region of the country where you live.

Over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, can be quite effective in relieving allergy symptoms. If you are regularly bothered by allergies, ask your doctor if a prescription nasal corticosteroid may be right for you. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat nasal inflammation and congestion, while antihistamines treat the itching and runny nose that allergies can cause.

Nasal corticosteroids can be particularly helpful if you have seasonal allergies and use them just as the allergy symptoms begin. That’s because when the season first starts, you need a lot of the allergen to cause symptoms. But as symptoms progress, lower amounts of allergen produce more symptoms. By starting the medication early, you might be able to diminish this effect and reduce your symptoms throughout the entire allergy season.

If you suspect your nasal congestion and other symptoms are the result of sinus problems rather than allergies, you may just need to be patient, take care of yourself and use over-the-counter medications as needed until the infection clears. However, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, or if they are severe, make an appointment to see your doctor.

— Juan Guarderas, M.D., Otorhinolaryngology and Allergy, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

Pop Quiz: Is It a Cold or Allergies?

It’s that time of year again! Soon children will be sharing pencils, paper, and plenty of germs! With school almost back in session, you’ll soon be asking: Is it a cold or is it allergies? At first look, you may think seasonal allergies and frequent colds are indistinguishable. Congestion, sneezing and runny noses are symptoms of each. A post-nasal drip may also mirror cold symptoms with an irritated throat and cough. However, the duration of symptoms and their frequency will help narrow the window. The Riesberg Institute is here to help you debunk any uncertainties and know once and for all the culprits of each.

Now it’s time for a pop-quiz! Do you know the difference?

True or False: Cold Symptoms Last Longer Than Allergy Symptoms.

False! Cold symptoms can last three to fourteen days, but allergy symptoms last much longer! Achy muscles and fever are clear signs of a cold. With irritability, stuffy ears and facial pain being surprising but real symptoms of allergies. Allergies can appear as early as 4 to 6 years of age and are the common cause of sniffling and itchy eyes. A child with one parent suffering from allergies has a 1-in-3 chance of developing, while a child with two allergy-suffering parents has a 7-in-10 chance. With seasonal allergies, the changing of seasons can trigger an outburst. What triggers a reaction?

Allergens, such as pollen or mold spurs, release particles into the air. The immune systems of seasonal allergy sufferers target these invaders by releasing chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to attack. The release of these chemicals may lead to congestion, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, and runny noses – typical symptoms associated with allergies.

With grass pollen wrapping up, and weed pollen and mold spurs on the rise in the Pensacola area, even those who have never experienced seasonal allergies may suffer.

True or False: The Color of Nasal Discharge Offers Clues.

True! A clear distinguisher of a cold or allergies is a discoloration of mucus. Allergy sufferers commonly experience translucent nasal discharge, while cold sufferers will have a green or yellowish mucus. However, Some allergy sufferers are also prone to developing sinus infections from the persistent congestion.

Request Riesberg if YOU or Your Child Suffer From Allergies or Sinus!

At Riesberg Institute we understand that allergy symptoms can drain your energy and be irritating. Let our dedicated team assist you in distinguishing the cause of your bothersome symptoms. Allergy testing will identify the specific allergens causing your discomfort. Receiving your targeted allergy treatment at Riesberg Institute will lead to long-term relief of allergy symptoms.

Do allergy and chronic sinus issues wreak havoc in your household? The Riesberg Institute has you covered there as well. Our chronic sinus patients tell us daily how their sinus headaches, facial pressure, and lack of energy negatively impacts other family members. With multiple advanced treatments of recovery offered at the Riesberg Institute, it is our promise to patients to deliver peace of mind and quality education on processes and procedures. The Riesberg Institute provides convenient office sinus treatments, with Balloon Sinusplasty being the champion of relief for those suffering from chronic sinus pain.

Get on track to relief – set an appointment with the Riesberg Institute today!

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