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Kristin Hayes, R.N.

Allergies and Chronic Sinusitis Often Confused and Misdiagnosed

By May 22, 2011

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Over the last couple of years, being an ENT guide for About.com, I have written many articles about how to tell the difference between allergies and a sinus infection. Now, a new study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AAFA) gives insight to just how often patients misdiagnose themselves with these conditions. According to the the study, 51% of people participating in the study had misdiagnosed themselves with allergies when they actually had sinusitis. That's not all that surprising considering the two conditions have many of the same symptoms: headaches, runny nose, congestion, and fatigue, to name a few. Plus, with a whole slew of over-the-counter allergy medications available most people are inclined to pick up a box of Claritin or Allegra from the grocery store rather than see a physician.

What people don't know is that chronic sinusitis can go on for months and people can have at least 3 infections a year. Some antihistamines, like Benadryl, may help the symptoms of chronic sinusitis, (runny nose for example), while masking the real problem which is an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics and, in severe cases, sinus surgery. Treating chronic sinusitis like you would allergies delays proper treatment and allows the infection to get worse.

Likewise, there is danger in treating allergies like a sinus infection. People with allergies are at a higher risk of developing asthma and, recent studies show, depression. Seeing an Allergist can help you determine if you are allergic, what you are allergic to, and how severe your allergies are. It can also open up a whole world of treatments that are not available over-the-counter, (allergy shots for example).

So are there any clues as to what your real condition is? Actually there is. Allergies tend to be itchy while itchy eyes and nose aren't really seen much with sinus infections. Allergies may get worse in peak pollen seasons or after you've been outside working with plants, if you have hay fever that is. If you're allergic to dust or mold it may be more difficult to notice a correlation between exposure and symptoms. Sinus infections often develop after you've had an upper respiratory infection, (a cold). Despite these very subtle differences, (which are not present in every case), the research by the AAFA tells us that there is no substitute for seeing a qualified physician. To read more about about this study visit their website and read, Playing Doctor and Paying a Price.

For more information about allergies and sinus infections read:

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