Do you frequently have an itchy, runny, or blocked nose, a cough, a headache, or a sore throat? If you do not test positive for the coronavirus, then it is a sign that you may have allergic rhinitis or sinusitis, two of the most common medical conditions that are often associated or confused for one another. Allergic rhinitis and sinusitis are two different conditions with distinct symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Find out more about their differences in this article.

What is Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects approximately 13.1% of the Singapore population. It occurs when the inside of your nose becomes inflamed and swollen due to the inhalation of something you are allergic to, such as pollen. Some common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include continuous sneezing, runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, blocked stuffy nose, and itchy ears, nose, and throat.

Learn more: What Should You Do When You Have Excessive Earwax

Allergic rhinitis is usually acute, with symptoms soon appearing after an allergen exposure, and lasting only for as long as you are exposed to it. Your symptoms will gradually subside a few days after removing the allergen from the environment. Acute allergic rhinitis varies in severity, some may see their symptoms improving on their own, while others may need medication to cope with them.

What is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis can be acute or chronic. It happens when the sinus cavities become inflamed and swollen, which obstructs proper drainage and causes the sinuses to become blocked and filled with liquid. This could result in the growth of germs and bacteria. Sinusitis is commonly caused by virus, bacterial, or fungal infections. Symptoms you may experience with sinusitis include a blocked nose, discoloured nasal discharge, sinus pressure, headache, and even fever. 

Treatment for acute sinusitis usually involves use of antibiotics and nasal medications. 

Acute sinusitis symptoms may resolve in less than four weeks, but if your symptoms do not subside after more than 12 weeks, you may have chronic sinusitis and should seek proper treatment and evaluation with an ENT specialist. 

Key Differences Between Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitis

Allergic rhinitis is caused by external factors—the presence of allergens in your environment—which results in an allergy reaction, whereas sinusitis is typically caused by inflamed sinuses and mucus buildup, or viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. Take note of the symptoms you are experiencing to distinguish between the two conditions yourself. One of the more obvious differences is the colour and type of mucus; clear nasal drainage is usually associated with allergic rhinitis, while persistent and large amounts of yellow or green mucus may be a sign of sinusitis. 

Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitis Treatment Options

Avoiding the source of the allergy is the best treatment for allergic rhinitis. If that is not possible, patients may be given antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, or immunotherapy to alleviate their symptoms. Sinusitis treatments include nasal or oral corticosteroids, saline nasal irrigation, allergy medications, and antibiotics. Surgery may be required in severe cases.

Dr Jenica Yong is an ENT specialist in Singapore with a team of experienced healthcare professionals ready to resolve your allergic rhinitis or sinusitis conditions. Schedule your consultation with us today.

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