What causes sinus congestion allergies

American Rhinologic Society

Through research, education, and advocacy, the American Rhinologic Society is devoted to serving patients with nose, sinus, and skull base disorders. Their website’s thorough coverage of sinus-related issues includes rarer conditions, such as fungal sinusitis, which are often excluded from other informational sites. It also provides a valuable search tool to discover a doctor, as well as links to other medical societies and resources that are useful for patients.

Cleveland Clinic

Their website contains an exhaustive guide on sinusitis and an easy-to-use «Find a Doctor» search tool.


ENThealth provides useful information on how the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) are all connected, along with information about sinusitis and other related illnesses and symptoms, such as rhinitis, deviated septum, and postnasal drip.

As part of the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, this website is equipped with the ability to assist you discover an ENT specialist in your area.

What does your sinus congestion glance like? What is it doing? Let's glance at the possibilities.

Do you own a runny nose?

Is your head stuffed up, making it hard to breathe through your nose?

  1. It could be a sinus infection (sinusitis).
  2. It may be a cold.
  3. It may be the flu.

If you own drainage, what color is it?

  1. Thick and white or cloudy: It is most likely a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu.
  2. Green or yellow: This color indicates an infection — but that does not mean it is caused by bacteria.

    Viral infections can also cause discolored mucus. See your doctor, but you may not necessarily need antibiotics. It could be sinusitis.

  3. Clear and thin: It is probably a cold, the flu or allergies.
  4. Blood-streaked: This is generally caused by ruptured blood vessels in the nose. It can happen as a result of dry nasal membranes or from blowing your nose too aggressively. Glance at other symptoms to determine whether or not you should see a doctor.

Do you own pressure in your face and eyes?

  1. It is probably a sinus infection (sinusitis).
  2. It may be allergies.

The Best Research Resources

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

This academy’s website provides valuable information to assist readers determine the difference between colds, allergies, and sinusitis.

A primer guide on sinusitis also provides more specific information about the chronic version of the illness. Additional resources include a «virtual allergist» that helps you to review your symptoms, as well as a database on pollen counts.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI)

In addition to providing a comprehensive guide on sinus infections, the ACAAI website also contains a wealth of information on allergies, asthma, and immunology. The site’s useful tools include a symptom checker, a way to search for an allergist in your area, and a function that allows you to ask an allergist questions about your symptoms.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

For allergy sufferers, the AAFA website contains an easy-to-understand primer on sinusitis.

It also provides comprehensive information on various types of allergies, including those with risk factors for sinusitis.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC website provides basic information on sinus infections and other respiratory illnesses, such as common colds, bronchitis, ear infections, flu, and sore throat. It offers guidance on how to get symptom relief for those illnesses, as well as preventative tips on practicing good hand hygiene, and a recommended immunization schedule.


National Library of Medicine

The U.S. National Library of Medicine is the world’s largest biomedical library. As part of the National Institutes of Health, their website provides the basics on sinus infection. It also contains a number of links to join you with more information on treatments, diagnostic procedures, and related issues.

What Could be Causing Your Sinus Congestion?

Sinus congestion can be caused by numerous things, so it is significant to assess your other symptoms as well. If you own concerns about your symptoms, you should always contact your doctor or health care provider.

  1. Do you own a runny or stuffy nose, fever, body aches, and a cough?

    It is probably the flu.

  2. Do you own stuffiness and pain and pressure in your face and eyes? It is probably a form of sinus congestion.
  3. Do you own a runny or stuffy nose, headache, and cough? It could be a cold.
  4. Do you own a clear runny nose and itching in the eyes or nose? It may be seasonal allergies.

Sinus congestion is a symptom that comes with a lot of upper respiratory infections and illnesses. Most of the time it will go away on its own but sometimes it needs to be treated with medication.

When to See a Doctor for Congestion

Medications for Sinus Congestion

There are two primary categories of medications to treat the diverse types of sinus congestion.

They are known as antihistamines and decongestants.

Antihistamines are used for a runny nose. They assist dry the sinus congestion and slow the nasal drips. Antihistamines are most commonly used to treat seasonal allergies.

Decongestants are used for that stuffy, full feeling in your head. They reduce the swelling in your nasal passages which allows mucus to drain.

Some common decongestants include Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and Sudafed PE (phenylephrine).

Many medications combine one of these decongestants or antihistamines with other medications to make multi-symptom treatments.

They are sold under numerous brand names.

Multi-Symptom Freezing and Flu Medications

Treating Sinus Congestion Without Medications

A variety of non-medication treatments are available to assist relieve sinus congestion.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

Some of the best options include humidifiers, saline nasal sprays, and saline nasal drops.

Humidifiers assist hold moisture in the air and prevent nasal passages from drying out. They are especially effective in the winter. With heaters running, the air in our homes tends to dry out quickly, which in turn dries out nasal passages and makes it more hard to breathe. Running a cool mist humidifier, especially while sleeping, will assist reduce the risk of dried nasal passages and thick congested noses in the morning.

Saline nasal spray used a few times a day can assist loosen congestion and improve drainage.

This is a safe and effective alternative to medication as saline nasal spray is simply sterile saltwater.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

Neti pots own been used for numerous years to rinse out the sinus cavities. There are several varieties available now in almost any pharmacy or store that has a pharmaceutical section. Using a saline solution, you can use this device that looks love a miniature teapot to rinse the mucus out of your sinuses naturally, without taking medications.

Saline Nose Drops and Bulb Syringe 

Saline nose drops and the bulb syringe can be used in infants to tug out drainage or thick mucus from the nose.

Infants breathe only through their noses, so it is significant that the nasal passages remain open. This simple method is effective and does not cause harmful side effects love numerous medications do.

You should take caution not to overuse over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays (such as Afrin), though. Using medicated nasal sprays for longer than three to four days can actually increase congestion.

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A Cold

  1. What triggers it: A virus.
  2. What it feels like: You can expect a stuffy nose, but also some runny, discolored mucus, Goldsobel explains.

    You may also experience a sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, or fatigue. Another sign is a rising temperature: Colds often trigger a fever, he says, but sometimes those fevers are so mild that people ponder they own allergies instead.

  3. How endless it lasts: People generally fend off the freezing virus (without treatment) within seven to 10 days, Baroody says. But if your symptoms own lingered past that window of time, you might own sinusitis. If you suspect you own a sinus infection, you should talk to your doctor.

An Allergic Reaction

  1. What triggers it: Allergens cause an allergic reaction.

    Common indoor allergens include mold, dust, and animal dander, while outdoor triggers include pollen and ragweed.

  2. What it feels like: You may experience some nasal congestion with allergies, but it generally accompanies a runny nose (clear, watery discharge), sneezing, and itchy nose and eyes. Allergies never cause a fever, Goldsobel notes.
  3. How endless it lasts: If you own seasonal allergies, you may struggle with allergy symptoms throughout the spring and drop, Dr. Baroody says. If you're allergic to indoor allergens, you may experience symptoms year-round.

How to Treat Congestion

Because sinus infections, colds, and allergies share some similar symptoms, including congestion, medications love nasal sprays, oral antihistamines, and eye drops can assist minimize your discomfort.

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It appears as an expanding pink or red patch, often on the legs, that feels warm and hard and may also be painful and swollen.Learn More

If allergies are to blame, do your best to avoid your known triggers and steer clear of any other potential irritants, such as smoke or air pollution. Long-term treatments love immunotherapy (allergy shots) can assist desensitize you to allergens and improve symptoms over time.

When Colds and Allergies Cause Sinus Infections

Even if your sinus congestion is being caused by allergies or a freezing, it doesn’t mean you won’t develop a sinus infection later on.

In fact, when people own colds or allergies, the lining of the nose will swell up, which prevents mucus from draining properly — and that can then lead to sinusitis, says Goldsobel.

People with allergies and asthma may be more vulnerable to sinusitis, though it's not proven, Baroody says.

If you are at higher risk for sinus infections, you can take steps to prevent them. Don't let allergy symptoms spiral out of control. And, Baroody says, be on the lookout "for the symptoms of sinus infections, and treat them promptly."

Posted on: May 02, 2016

You’re coughing and sneezing and tired and achy.

You ponder that you might be getting a freezing. Later, when the medicines you’ve been taking to relieve the symptoms of the common freezing are not working and you’ve now got a terrible headache, you finally drag yourself to the doctor. After listening to your history of symptoms, examining your face and forehead, and perhaps doing a sinus X-ray, the doctor says you own sinusitis.

Sinusitis simply means your sinuses are infected or inflamed, but this gives little indication of the distress and pain this condition can cause.

Health care experts generally divide sinusitis cases into

Acute, which lasts for 3 weeks or less
Chronic, which generally lasts for 3 to 8 weeks but can continue for months or even years
Recurrent, which is several acute attacks within a year
Health care experts estimate that 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year. Health care workers report 33 million cases of chronic sinusitis to the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

Americans spend millions of dollars each year for medications that promise relief from their sinus symptoms.

What are sinuses?
Sinuses are hollow air spaces in the human body. When people tell, “I’m having a sinus attack,” they generally are referring to symptoms in one or more of four pairs of cavities, or sinuses, known as paranasal sinuses. These cavities, located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose, include the:

Frontal sinuses over the eyes in the brow area
Maxillary sinuses inside each cheekbone
Ethmoid sinuses just behind the bridge of the nose and between the eyes
Sphenoid sinuses behind the ethmoids in the upper region of the nose and behind the eyes

Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus, and each is joined with the nasal passages by a continuous mucous membrane lining.

Therefore, anything that causes a swelling in the nose-an infection, an allergic reaction, or an immune reaction-also can affect the sinuses. Air trapped within a blocked sinus, along with pus or other secretions, may cause pressure on the sinus wall. The result is the sometimes intense pain of a sinus attack. Similarly, when air is prevented from entering a paranasal sinus by a swollen membrane at the opening, a vacuum can be created that also causes pain.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
The location of your sinus pain depends on which sinus is affected.

Headache when you wake up in the morning is typical of a sinus problem.
Pain when your forehead over the frontal sinuses is touched may indicate that your frontal sinuses are inflammed.
Infection in the maxillary sinuses can cause your upper jaw and teeth to ache and your cheeks to become tender to the touch.
Since the ethmoid sinuses are near the tear ducts in the corner of the eyes, inflammation of these cavities often causes swelling of the eyelids and tissues around your eyes, and pain between your eyes.

Ethmoid inflammation also can cause tenderness when the sides of your nose are touched, a loss of smell, and a stuffy nose.
Although the sphenoid sinuses are less frequently affected, infection in this area can cause earaches, neck pain, and deep aching at the top of your head.
Most people with sinusitis, however, own pain or tenderness in several locations, and their symptoms generally do not clearly indicate which sinuses are inflamed.

Other symptoms of sinusitis can include

A cough that may be more severe at night
Runny nose (rhinitis) or nasal congestion
In addition, the drainage of mucus from the sphenoids or other sinuses below the back of your throat (postnasal drip) can cause you to own a sore throat.

Mucus drainage also can irritate the membranes lining your larynx (upper windpipe). Not everyone with these symptoms, however, has sinusitis.

On rare occasions, acute sinusitis can result in brain infection and other serious complications.

What are some causes of acute sinusitis?
Most cases of acute sinusitis start with a common freezing, which is caused by a virus. These viral colds do not cause symptoms of sinusitis, but they do inflame the sinuses. Both the freezing and the sinus inflammation generally go away without treatment in 2 weeks. The inflammation, however, might explain why having a freezing increases your likelihood of developing acute sinusitis.

For example, your nose reacts to an invasion by viruses that cause infections such as the common freezing or flu by producing mucus and sending white blood cells to the lining of the nose, which congest and swell the nasal passages.

When this swelling involves the adjacent mucous membranes of your sinuses, air and mucus are trapped behind the narrowed openings of the sinuses. When your sinus openings become too narrow, mucus cannot drain properly. This increase in mucus sets up prime conditions for bacteria to multiply.

Most healthy people harbor bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, in their upper respiratory tracts with no problems until the body’s defenses are weakened or drainage from the sinuses is blocked by a freezing or other viral infection.

Thus, bacteria that may own been living harmlessly in your nose or throat can multiply and invade your sinuses, causing an acute sinus infection.

Sometimes, fungal infections can cause acute sinusitis. Although fungi are abundant in the environment, they generally are harmless to healthy people, indicating that the human body has a natural resistance to them. Fungi, such as Aspergillus, can cause serious illness in people whose immune systems are not functioning properly. Some people with fungal sinusitis own an allergic-type reaction to the fungi.

Chronic inflammation of the nasal passages also can lead to sinusitis.

If you own allergic rhinitis or hay fever, you can develop episodes of acute sinusitis. Vasomotor rhinitis, caused by humidity, freezing air, alcohol, perfumes, and other environmental conditions, also may be complicated by sinus infections.

Acute sinusitis is much more common in some people than in the general population. For example, sinusitis occurs more often in people who own reduced immune function (such as those with immune deficiency diseases or HIV infection) and with abnormality of mucus secretion or mucus movement (such as those with cystic fibrosis).

What causes chronic sinusitis?
If you own asthma, an allergic disease, you may own frequent episodes of chronic sinusitis.

If you are allergic to airborne allergens, such as dust, mold, and pollen, which trigger allergic rhinitis, you may develop chronic sinusitis.

In addition, people who are allergic to fungi can develop a condition called “allergic fungal sinusitis.”

If you are subject to getting chronic sinusitis, damp weather, especially in northern temperate climates, or pollutants in the air and in buildings also can affect you.

Like acute sinusitis, you might develop chronic sinusitis if you own an immune deficiency disease or an abnormality in the way mucus moves through and from your respiratory system (e.g., immune deficiency, HIV infection, and cystic fibrosis).

In addition, if you own severe asthma, nasal polyps (small growths in the nose), or a severe asthmatic response to aspirin and aspirin-like medicines such as ibuprofen, you might own chronic sinusitis often.

How is sinusitis diagnosed?
Because your nose can get stuffy when you own a condition love the common freezing, you may confuse simple nasal congestion with sinusitis. A freezing, however, generally lasts about 7 to 14 days and disappears without treatment. Acute sinusitis often lasts longer and typically causes more symptoms than just a cold.

Your doctor can diagnose sinusitis by listening to your symptoms, doing a physical examination, and taking X-rays, and if necessary, an MRI or CT scan (magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography).

How is sinusitis treated?
After diagnosing sinusitis and identifying a possible cause, a doctor can propose treatments that will reduce your inflammation and relieve your symptoms.

Acute sinusitis
If you own acute sinusitis, your doctor may recommend

Decongestants to reduce congestion
Antibiotics to control a bacterial infection, if present
Pain relievers to reduce any pain

You should, however, use over-the-counter or prescription decongestant nose drops and sprays for only few days.

If you use these medicines for longer periods, they can lead to even more congestion and swelling of your nasal passages.

If bacteria cause your sinusitis, antibiotics used along with a nasal or oral decongestant will generally assist.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

Your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic that fights the type of bacteria most commonly associated with sinusitis.

Many cases of acute sinusitis will finish without antibiotics. If you own allergic disease along with infectious sinusitis, however, you may need medicine to relieve your allergy symptoms. If you already own asthma then get sinusitis, you may experience worsening of your asthma and should be in shut touch with your doctor.

In addition, your doctor may prescribe a steroid nasal spray, along with other treatments, to reduce your sinus congestion, swelling, and inflammation.

Chronic sinusitis
Doctors often discover it hard to treat chronic sinusitis successfully, realizing that symptoms persist even after taking antibiotics for a endless period.

In general, however, treating chronic sinusitis, such as with antibiotics and decongestants, is similar to treating acute sinusitis.

Some people with severe asthma own dramatic improvement of their symptoms when their chronic sinusitis is treated with antibiotics.

Doctors commonly prescribe steroid nasal sprays to reduce inflammation in chronic sinusitis. Although doctors occasionally prescribe them to treat people with chronic sinusitis over a endless period, they don’t fully understand the long-term safety of these medications, especially in children. Therefore, doctors will consider whether the benefits outweigh any risks of using steroid nasal sprays.

If you own severe chronic sinusitis, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids, such as prednisone.

Because oral steroids are powerful medicines and can own significant side effects, you should take them only when other medicines own not worked.

Although home remedies cannot cure sinus infection, they might give you some comfort.

Inhaling steam from a vaporizer or a boiling cup of water can soothe inflamed sinus cavities.
Saline nasal spray, which you can purchase in a drug store, can give relief.
Tender heat applied over the inflamed area is comforting.
When medical treatment fails, surgery may be the only alternative for treating chronic sinusitis.

Research studies propose that the vast majority of people who undergo surgery own fewer symptoms and better quality of life.

In children, problems often are eliminated by removal of adenoids obstructing nasal-sinus passages.

Adults who own had allergic and infectious conditions over the years sometimes develop nasal polyps that interfere with proper drainage.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

Removal of these polyps and/or repair of a deviated septum to ensure an open airway often provides considerable relief from sinus symptoms.

The most common surgery done today is functional endoscopic sinus surgery, in which the natural openings from the sinuses are enlarged to permit drainage. This type of surgery is less invasive than conventional sinus surgery, and serious complications are rare.

How can I prevent sinusitis?
Although you cannot prevent every sinus disorders-any more than you can avoid every colds or bacterial infections-you can do certain things to reduce the number and severity of the attacks and possibly prevent acute sinusitis from becoming chronic.

You may get some relief from your symptoms with a humidifier, particularly if room air in your home is heated by a dry forced-air system.
Air conditioners assist to provide an even temperature.
Electrostatic filters attached to heating and air conditioning equipment are helpful in removing allergens from the air.
If you are prone to getting sinus disorders, especially if you own allergies, you should avoid cigarette smoke and other air pollutants.

If your allergies inflame your nasal passages, you are more likely to own a strong reaction to every irritants.

If you suspect that your sinus inflammation may be related to dust, mold, pollen, or food-or any of the hundreds of allergens that can trigger an upper respiratory reaction-you should consult your doctor. Your doctor can use various tests to determine whether you own an allergy and its cause. This will assist you and your doctor take appropriate steps to reduce or limit your allergy symptoms.

Drinking alcohol also causes nasal and sinus membranes to swell.

If you are prone to sinusitis, it may be uncomfortable for you to swim in pools treated with chlorine, since it irritates the lining of the nose and sinuses.

Divers often get sinus congestion and infection when water is forced into the sinuses from the nasal passages.

You may discover that air travel poses a problem if you are suffering from acute or chronic sinusitis.

As air pressure in a plane is reduced, pressure can build up in your head blocking your sinuses or eustachian tubes in your ears. Therefore, you might feel discomfort in your sinus or middle ear during the plane’s ascent or descent. Some doctors recommend using decongestant nose drops or inhalers before your flight to avoid this problem.

What research is going on?
Scientific studies own shown a shut relationship between having allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. In fact, some studies state that up to 80 percent of adults with chronic sinusitis also had allergic rhinitis.

There is also an association between asthma and sinusitis. Some researchers ponder that as numerous as 75 percent of people with asthma also get sinusitis. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conducts and supports research on allergic diseases as well as bacteria and fungus that can cause sinusitis. This research is focused on developing better treatments and ways to prevent these diseases.

Scientists supported by NIAID and other institutions are investigating whether chronic sinusitis has genetic causes.

They own found that the alterations in genes which cause cystic fibrosis may also contribute to chronic sinusitis. This research focus will give scientists new insights into the cause of the disease in some people and points to new strategies for diagnosis and treatment.

Another NIAID-supported research study is trying to determine whether fungi may frolic a role in causing numerous cases of chronic sinusitis. This research also will assist scientists develop better medicines to treat chronic sinusitis.

Allergic rhinitis occurs when allergens in the air are breathed by a patient that is allergic to them, irritating and inflaming the nasal passages. Allergens may include dust mites, pollen, molds, or pet dander.

In people who are allergic to them, these particles trigger the release of a chemical in the body that causes nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. These symptoms can lead to poor sleep, which can result in significant daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Allergic rhinitis (allergies) may happen year-round or seasonally.

What causes sinus congestion allergies

When it occurs seasonally it is generally caused by airborne particles from trees, grass, ragweed, or outdoor mold. Causes of year-round allergic rhinitis include indoor substances such as pet dander, indoor mold, cockroach and dust mites in bedding, mattresses, and carpeting.

Sleep problems are common in people with allergic rhinitis. One study found that sleep is dramatically impaired by allergic symptoms and that the degree of impairment is related to the severity of those symptoms. In addition, sleep problems are linked with fatigue and daytime sleepiness as well as decreased productivity at work or school, impaired learning and memory, depression, and a reduced quality of life.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep, is linked with allergic rhinitis.

OSA occurs when the muscles of the throat relax and fail to hold the airway open during sleep. People with OSA may suffer from severe daytime sleepiness and a range of chronic health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and sexual dysfunction. Nasal congestion, which causes the upper airway to narrow, increases the risk of both snoring and OSA among allergic rhinitis patients. The excellent news is that reducing nasal inflammation may reduce symptoms of snoring and OSA as well as daytime fatigue and sleepiness, according to at least one study.

This is particularly significant for those OSA patients who own trouble with continuous positive airway pressure(CPAP) devices because of nasal congestion.

In addition, research suggests that allergic rhinitis is a risk factor for snoring and OSA among children. Snoring and other sleep problems are linked with poor performance in school, lower IQ, and even brain damage, according to recent research. Parents are urged to pay shut attention to sleep symptoms in children with allergic rhinitis and discuss their children’s sleep with their pediatricians.

With such a high rate of sleep disorders and other health problems among allergic rhinitis patients, getting adequate sleep on a regular basis is essential to maintaining physical and mental health as well as performance, safety, and overall well-being.

According to NSF’s 2006 Sleep in America poll, 15% of American adolescents take medications for allergies.

Additional Info:

Reviewed by David G.

Davila, MD (December 2009).

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Learn More About the Ultimate Winter Wellness Guide

Sinusitis can be a confusing thing to treat for anyone.

Because a sinus infection can be so easily confused with a common freezing or an allergy, figuring out the best way to alleviate your symptoms can be difficult.

Even more challenging, a sinus infection can evolve over time from a viral infection to a bacterial infection, or even from a short-term acute infection to a long-term chronic illness.

We own provided for you the best sources of information on sinus infections to assist you rapidly define your ailment and get the best and most efficient treatment possible.