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Allergies & Sinusitis



Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergic substance that has entered the body as though it was an unwelcomed invader. The immune system will produce special antibodies capable of recognizing the same allergic substance if it enters the body at a later time. When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it causing a series of reactions. These reactions often involve tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation, and production of many inflammatory substances including histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives, shortness of breath, etc. Other less common symptoms are balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and even respiratory problems like asthma.

For some allergy sufferers symptoms may be seasonal, but for others it is a year-round discomfort. Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously. They may include minimizing exposure to allergens, desensitization with allergy shots, and medications. If used properly, medications, including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, saline sprays, and cortisone-type preparations, can be helpful. Even over-the-counter drugs can be beneficial, but some may cause drowsiness.

The most appropriate person to evaluate allergy problems is an otolaryngologist. Our doctor will gather a detailed history and complete a thorough examination of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. He or she will offer advice on proper environmental control and evaluate the sinuses to determine if infection or structural abnormality (deviated septum, polyps) is contributing to the symptoms.

In addition, the doctor may advise testing to determine the specific allergen that is causing discomfort and may refer you for an allergy evaluation by one of our experienced allergy nurses. In some cases immunotherapy or allergy shots may be recommended. We offer both allergy shots and the more popular sub-lingual therapy (an allergen solution given under the tongue) at all three of our office locations.

Sinusitis
Acute bacterial sinusitis is an infection of the sinus cavities caused by bacteria. It usually is preceded by a cold, allergy attack, or irritation by environmental pollutants. Unlike a cold, or allergy, bacterial sinusitis requires a physician's diagnosis and treatment with an antibiotic to cure the infection and prevent future complications.

Normally, mucus collecting in the sinuses drains into the nasal passages. When you have a cold or allergy attack, your sinuses become inflamed and are unable to drain. This can lead to congestion and infection. Diagnosis of acute sinusitis usually is based on a physical examination and a discussion of your symptoms. Your doctor also may use x-rays of your sinuses or obtain a sample of your nasal discharge to test for bacteria.

When you have frequent sinusitis, or the infection lasts three months or more, it could be chronic sinusitis. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis may be less severe than those of acute; however, untreated chronic sinusitis can cause damage to the sinuses and cheekbones that sometimes requires surgery to repair. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is recommended for certain types of sinus disease. With the endoscope, the surgeon can look directly into the nose, while at the same time, removing diseased tissue and polyps and clearing the narrow channels between the sinuses.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis vs. a cold or allergy?

SIGN/ SYMPTOM SINUSITIS ALLERGY COLD
Facial Pressure /Pain Yes Sometimes Sometimes
Duration of Illness Over 10-14 days Varies Under 10 days
Nasal Discharge Whitish or colored Clear, thin, watery Thick, whitish or thin
Fever Sometimes No Sometimes
Headache Sometimes Sometimes Sometimes
Pain in Upper Teeth Sometimes No No
Bad Breath Sometimes No No
Coughing Sometimes Sometimes Yes
Nasal Congestion Yes Sometimes Yes
Sneezing No Sometimes Yes

 

 

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