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Spring Sinuses: Is It Allergies or Something More?

April showers bring May flowers, and we all know what that means: seasonal allergies. An estimated 36 million people in the United States suffer from hay fever – an allergic reaction to pollen and mold – and experience itchy eyes, sneezing and runny nose when trees and flowers are in bloom. Antihistamines are the most common method of treatment for seasonal allergies, but what if they don’t help? Well, there’s a chance that your seasonal allergies may not be allergies at all.

Some sinus conditions mimic the symptoms of allergies. However, the causes behind these conditions vary, and they require different methods of treatment. Arriving at the correct diagnosis can be a bit tricky, but some symptoms provide clues as to whether you’re experiencing seasonal allergies or something else. The following are some conditions that are commonly mistaken with allergies.

Sinus Infection

Also known as sinusitis, a sinus infection shares many symptoms with seasonal allergies, including congestion, runny nose, and sinus pressure. But unlike allergies, which are triggered by allergens in the environment, sinus infections are the result of viral or bacterial infections. The presence of a fever and thick yellow or green mucous is a tell-tale sign that you’ve got a sinus infection, not allergies. Most sinus infections will clear up on their own within a matter of days. However, persistent infections may require the help of antibiotics.

Nonallergic Rhinitis

Just like seasonal allergies, nonallergic rhinitis causes stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing and postnasal drip. However, nonallergic rhinitis differs from allergies in that it does not involve the immune system. The cause for this condition is usually unknown, and no cure currently exists. Symptoms can result from a variety of triggers, including environmental irritants, certain foods or medicines, hormonal changes and weather changes. Nonallergic rhinitis can be controlled by identifying and avoiding triggers. Home remedies and over-the-counter medications can also be used to help control symptoms (Source: WebMD).

The Common Cold

You might not expect to get a cold in the springtime, but colds can occur any time of year. Sneezing, congestion, runny nose, sore throat and coughing are signs of the common cold. However, in the springtime, they are often mistaken for allergies. If your symptoms are accompanied by body aches or a fever, chances are, it’s a cold. These are not symptoms of seasonal allergies (Source: ABC News).

There is no cure for seasonal allergies, but with a proper diagnosis, it is much easier to effectively treat your symptoms. If you suspect that you have seasonal allergies, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Be sure to bring a list of all your symptoms, including when they occur, how long they last, and what makes them better or worse. Your doctor may decide to conduct further testing to identify particular allergic reactions. Once you identify the cause behind your seasonal symptoms, you can treat them effectively and start enjoying that fresh, spring air!