When you experience a pounding headache and stuffy nose, you could be suffering from a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection. Determining which is the culprit behind your suffering can be a challenge because all of these maladies have similar symptoms. Paying close attention to the symptoms will help you identify the underlying problem.
Sinus infection, commonly referred to as sinusitis, affects the cavities around the nasal passages. The sinuses become swollen and inflamed when there is an infection. When there is swelling, the sinuses can’t drain properly, resulting in mucus buildup.
Congestion makes breathing through the nose very difficult. Sinus infections can cause thick green or yellow nasal discharge, accompanied by a cough, headache, and sore throat. Sinusitis may also cause tenderness or pressure around the eyes, nose, forehead, or cheeks. Sinus problems are often caused by a virus and will go away on its own in 10 to 14 days. Persistent sinusitis caused by bacteria may require antibiotics.
Allergies can result in the same cold-like symptoms as sinusitis, including a runny nose, congestion, and sinus pressure. Allergic rhinitis may manifest the same symptoms as sinusitis, but it is caused by allergic reactions to allergens, which may include pollen and dust. When the allergens are present in the body, the immune system releases histamine into the bloodstream, which leads to symptoms.
The following are simple ways of distinguishing the symptoms of sinusitis from those of allergies:
- Sinusitis is most often accompanied by facial pressure or pain.
- Sinusitis lasts from 10 to 14 days while the duration of seasonal allergies varies (depending on the presence of allergens in the environment).
- Sinusitis produces thick, yellow-green nasal discharge. Discharge from allergies is usually thin, clear, and watery.
- Sinusitis is likely to be accompanied by fever. Allergies are not.
- Sometimes you experience pain in the upper teeth when you have sinusitis. That symptom is not present with allergies.
- Sinusitis could produce bad breath, but allergies do not.
- There is no sneezing involved with sinusitis. You may sneeze when you have allergies.
An occasional sinus infection from a virus is common, but if you find yourself getting frequent sinusitis, it may be allergy-related. If you live in the Scottsdale area, consult a Scottsdale allergy doctor for allergy testing.