Though a stuffy nose seems like a minor complaint, it can be a warning sign of several conditions. Two common culprits associated with nasal congestion are allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. Both conditions have symptoms that are similar in the early stages, and medical professionals occasionally struggle to make a proper diagnosis. Over time, differences between the two usually emerge.
One in five people in the United States suffer from hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. Triggered by a host of outdoor and indoor allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander, it can cause symptoms of runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, postnasal drip, cough, and more.
Allergic rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune system views harmless airborne particles as a hazard – prompting the body to release histamine and other mediators that cause an allergic response. Sinus congestion and inflammation due to allergic rhinitis can sometimes allow sinusitis to develop.
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis can sometimes be controlled by taking medications, such as an antihistamine or nasal spray, or distancing oneself from the allergen. However, some people require allergen immunotherapy to get adequate relief. An allergy and immunology specialist can determine what treatments are right for you.
Symptoms of sinusitis can include nasal congestion, discolored nasal drainage, sinus pressure, headache, and fever. The two most common types of sinusitis are viral and bacterial.
Viral or bacterial infections of the sinus cavities can cause irritation and inflammation, hindering the drainage of mucus. Viral sinusitis usually lasts less than 7 to 10 days and will resolve with supportive care. Antibiotics are not needed to treat viral sinusitis. Bacterial sinusitis typically lasts longer than 10 days and may present with persistent fever. Bacterial sinusitis is usually treated with antibiotics.
Those with symptoms that subside in less than 4 weeks have acute sinusitis. However, if you’ve had nasal congestion and other symptoms of sinusitis for more than 12 weeks, your condition may be classified as chronic sinusitis – a persistent condition that is usually prolonged if you don’t seek proper care.
To distinguish between the two conditions, take note of the distinct symptoms. Itchy nose, sneezing, and associated itchy, watery eyes are more common with allergic rhinitis or allergies. While it may sound unpleasant, comparing the color and type of mucus is another way to help determine what’s causing your nasal congestion. Clear nasal drainage often coincides with allergies. Persistent yellow or green nasal discharge in large amounts may be an indicator of sinusitis.
Both conditions can reduce quality of life and interfere with work, school, and even getting a proper night’s sleep.
Clear Up Your Congestion
If you’re suffering from either affliction, seek the help of a reputable physician who can prescribe much-needed remedies. An allergist would be the appropriate doctor to treat both allergic rhinitis and acute or chronic sinusitis.
Allergy Experts in Tampa
Our team of board-certified allergy and immunology specialists at Allergy Tampa will work with you to determine the underlying cause of your nasal congestion, as well as put you on the path toward recovery by making an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, call (813) 971-9743 – or request an appointment with our online form.