How Can I Tell if I Have a Sinus Infection or Allergies?

July 22, 2022
Picture of a young woman sneezing into a tissue.

Are you experiencing a runny nose, congestion, a headache, and sinus pressure? Before you can start treating your condition, you’ll need to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms. Unfortunately, symptoms like these can result from a wide array of illnesses, including sinus infections and allergies. So, which do you have?

Only a trained medical provider can supply you with an accurate diagnosis, but with that being said, here are some questions that may help you determine whether your symptoms are being caused by a sinus infection or allergies:

  • Are your eyes itching or watering? If they are, you more than likely have allergies. Itchy, watery eyes are a hallmark sign of allergies, but rarely result from a sinus infection.
  • What time of year is it? If you’re beginning to feel under the weather, consider whether there are any seasonal allergens that could potentially be causing your symptoms. For example, if you’re sensitive to pollen and it’s currently spring or summer, the odds are good that allergies are the root cause.

Allergy Causes & Treatment Options

An allergic reaction occurs when someone’s immune system identifies a normally harmless substance as a dangerous foreign invader, then begins producing antibodies to fight off that invader. These antibodies may produce chemicals known as histamines, which can lead to allergy symptoms. Some common allergens include animal dander, dust mites, mold, pollen, and certain foods.

Many people are able to achieve relief from allergy symptoms using over-the-counter (OTC) medication, which might come in the form of a pill, a liquid, an eyedrop, or a nasal spray. However, if treatments like these fail to provide relief, you should consult with a medical professional. You should also seek emergency treatment if you’re experiencing the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which include low blood pressure, a weak but rapid pulse, tongue and/or throat swelling, difficulty breathing, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and fainting.

Sinus Infection Causes & Treatment Options

Sinus infections occur when fluid builds up within the sinuses—usually due to a virus, but sometimes as a result of bacteria—thereby providing a breeding ground for germs. Many people are able to relieve their symptoms at home by taking OTC pain relievers and decongestants, using a saline nasal spray, applying warm compresses, and inhaling steam from a shower or a bowl of warm water. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seeking professional treatment if you’ve had multiple sinus infections within the past year or if your symptoms:

  • Are severe
  • Last longer than 10 days without improvement
  • Begin improving but then get worse
  • Include a fever lasting longer than three to four days

In the event that bacteria caused your sinus infection, a medical provider may prescribe antibiotics (these would have no effect on viral infections).

Walk-In Treatment for Sinus Infections & Allergies

Whether you have a sinus infection, allergies, or another condition entirely, you can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care for treatment. We treat a wide range of non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries at our immediate care centers, which are located throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. All of our offices are open 365 days per year with extended hours, and we never require appointments. Stop in today, schedule a 24/7 Virtual Visit to receive care remotely, or call us at 860-650-3848 with any questions.

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