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Is It Sinusitis or Allergic Rhinitis?

Nothing is worse than feeling congested and unable to breathe out your nose. A stuffy nose and headache are signs of many illnesses, including the common cold. When you’re past the point of having a cold, your symptoms are likely due to two similar conditions: sinusitis or allergic rhinitis. 

Although sinusitis and allergic rhinitis have their similarities, these two common culprits associated with nasal congestion aren’t the same thing. Keep reading to explore the differences between allergies and sinus infections so that you can seek the appropriate treatment for relief.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is a group of symptoms affecting the nose. This condition develops when the body’s immune system recognizes and reacts to something in the environment that typically would not warrant a reaction. Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • A sore or scratchy throat
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Hives
  • Excessive fatigue

After coming into contact with an allergen, you may feel one or more of these symptoms. Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, dust mites, mold, medications, and food. During certain times of the year, pollen and other allergens can become problematic. 


Sinusitis is a common inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, the cavities that produce the mucus necessary for the nasal passages to work effectively. This condition can be acute or chronic and is often caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, allergies, or even an autoimmune reaction. When the nasal cavity is inflamed, mucus builds up and can get stuck, further compounding the problem. Symptoms of sinusitis may include:

  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Blocked nose
  • Nasal discharge
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Congestion
  • Cough 


Allergic rhinitis and sinusitis treatments share some similarities and differences. If you are experiencing severe congestion with either condition, an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant can help by breaking up the mucus in the nasal cavities. Allergies can also be treated with antihistamines, which work by blocking the immune system’s histamine-producing response whenever you encounter an allergen. 

While allergy medications won’t get rid of sinus infections, there are many methods that can get you one step closer to breathing regularly, including:

  • Rest
  • Drink clear fluids
  • Use a saline mist spray to hydrate the nasal passages

With some of these key differences in mind, you may be able to figure out whether you’re dealing with allergic rhinitis or sinusitis to help you take the necessary steps to start feeling like yourself again.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and signs, it may be time to schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist. It is important to understand what is causing your symptoms and how you can manage them. Act today and make an appointment with Dr. Marc Dean at the Ear and Sinus Institute!

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Call Us to Schedule an Appointment: (817) 332-4060
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