Can Allergies Cause Sinus Infections? What You Need to Know


Can allergies turn into a sinus infection?

Yes, allergies are one of the leading causes of sinusitis. Allergens present in the air can cause inflammation of the nasal passages. This can make it difficult for mucus to drain properly, increasing one’s risk of infection, which could lead to sinusitis.

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Living with seasonal allergies can be an uncomfortable experience by itself, but to make matters worse, allergies can also trigger other conditions. An estimated 35 million Americans also experience allergic sinusitis at least once a year. Continue reading to learn about the causes of allergic sinusitis and how to treat it.

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus cavities. The sinuses are a group of air-filled chambers within the bones of the face and skull, which are connected to the nasal passages. They produce mucus which moistens and filters air while trapping any foreign particles, such as pollen.

When a person has sinusitis, the inflammation causes blockage of the passages, which prevents normal mucus drainage. This allows bacteria to grow and cause infection in the sinuses.

What Are the Types of Sinusitis?

Generally, sinusitis is categorized based on how long it lasts and whether it recurs or not. Because of these differences, each type of sinusitis is going to be handled a little bit differently, so it’s important to learn which you have. Based on this categorization, one may have:

Acute Sinusitis

This type of sinusitis typically lasts the shortest and occurs when a cold or allergies cause swelling in the sinuses, making it difficult for mucus to drain. It usually lasts for four weeks or less, with symptoms normally going away after about two weeks. Most cases of acute sinusitis are caused by a viral infection. Seasonal allergies may also trigger this condition.

Subacute Sinusitis

This type of sinusitis can last up to three months. Symptoms tend to be milder than acute sinusitis. Bacterial infections may cause subacute sinusitis, with other cases resulting from seasonal allergic reactions.

Chronic Sinusitis

This is the most severe type of sinusitis and can last longer than three months, often lasting for months at a time with no relief. Often, chronic sinusitis occurs alongside other nasal issues or persistent allergies. This type of sinusitis is caused by bacterial infection.

Recurrent Sinusitis

Recurrent sinusitis occurs when a person experiences several episodes of acute sinusitis within a year. People with this type of sinusitis often experience similar symptoms between episodes, including facial pain or tenderness and nasal obstruction.

What Causes Allergic Sinusitis?

Allergic sinusitis refers to sinusitis caused by an allergic reaction. This can be due to seasonal allergies, including hay fever, or year-round allergies. There are a variety of allergens, like pollen, that can trigger this condition in you. Some of the top ones include:


Exposure to mold spores is another potential cause of allergic sinusitis. As the air we breathe contains millions of mold spores, it's easy for people to be exposed without even knowing it. Mold spores can enter the body through the nose, eyes, and mouth.

Exposure to mold spores can trigger an immune system response, causing the body to produce antibodies that attack the allergens. These antibodies cause inflammation of the sinuses and lead to symptoms of sinusitis.


Pollen is another potential cause of allergic sinusitis. Pollen can enter the air when trees, grasses, and weeds bloom during certain times of the year. People with allergies to pollen may experience symptoms of sinusitis when they're exposed to this allergen.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny creatures that are present in almost all homes. They thrive in damp, humid environments, so they can be found in carpets, bedding, and furniture. When dust mites come into contact with the mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses, they can trigger an immune system response that leads to inflammation and swelling of the sinus passages.

Pet Dander

Pet dander is a form of allergen that is released from the skin, saliva, and urine of animals. These tiny particles can trigger an immune system response when inhaled, causing symptoms of sinusitis. People who are allergic to pet dander may experience sinus congestion, facial pain, and difficulty breathing when exposed.

Can Allergies Cause Sinusitis?

Yes, allergies are one of the leading causes of sinusitis. Allergens present in the air can cause inflammation of the nasal passages. This can make it difficult for mucus to drain properly, increasing one’s risk of infection, which could lead to sinusitis.

It's important to note that not everyone with allergies will develop sinusitis. Some people may be more prone to developing sinusitis than others due to genetic or environmental factors.

What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Sinusitis?

Allergic sinusitis may cause a range of physical symptoms, which can affect the quality of life of a person. Understanding the main symptoms of allergic sinusitis can help patients seek prompt and appropriate treatment. Some of the most common allergic sinusitis symptoms include:

Nasal Congestion and Runny Nose

Allergic sinusitis is characterized by inflammation of the nasal tissues, which results in swelling and blockage of the nasal passages. This causes difficulty in breathing through the nose and a feeling of congestion. In addition, mucus buildup can occur as a result of this condition and may cause coughing and a sore throat.

People with allergic sinusitis often experience a runny nose or rhinorrhea. This may be accompanied by sneezing and itching in the nose.

Post-Nasal Drip

Another common symptom of allergic sinusitis is post-nasal drip which occurs when mucus accumulates in the nasal passages and drips down the back of your throat. Post-nasal drip can lead to a sore throat, a frequent cough, and bad breath.

Eye Irritation

People with allergic sinusitis may experience red, itchy, and watery eyes. This can be worsened by allergy medications such as antihistamines that cause dryness and irritation.


Headaches are common in people with allergic sinusitis as a result of the increased pressure in the forehead due to swelling and blockage in the nasal passages. These headaches can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by facial pain, depending on how severe your symptoms are.


Allergic sinusitis can cause extreme tiredness due to the inflammation in the nasal passages and its effects on your breathing. Fatigue is often a result of difficulty sleeping or lack of restful sleep due to constant congestion in the nose.

Reduced Sense of Taste and Smell

The inflammation of the nasal tissues can cause a decrease in your sense of smell and taste, which is known as olfactory dysfunction. This can be particularly noticeable when eating foods that you normally enjoy due to the decreased sensitivity in your nose.

Allergic Rhinitis vs. Sinusitis

Often, people confuse allergic rhinitis and sinusitis, as the symptoms can be very similar. Although both conditions involve inflammation of the nasal passages, there is a key difference between them: allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an allergic reaction to certain triggers, such as dust mites or pollens, while sinusitis involves a sinus infection.

When to See a Doctor

Many cases of allergic sinusitis can be managed at home with over-the-counter medications. However, if your symptoms persist or become more severe, such as high fever or facial pain, it is important to seek medical help. Your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics or other medications to reduce the inflammation and clear any infection in the sinuses.

It is also important to see a doctor if you believe your symptoms are caused by allergies. Getting an allergy test can help you identify what’s causing your allergies and help you find an effective treatment plan.

Diagnosis of Allergic Sinusitis

Your doctor may diagnose you with allergic sinusitis based on your symptoms and history. They may perform a physical examination to look for any signs of inflammation or infection in the sinuses. In addition, they may take swabs from your nose to check for bacterial or fungal infections. They may also order an allergy test to identify any triggers that may be causing your symptoms.

There are two main methods of allergy testing: skin prick testing and at-home testing. Skin prick testing requires an in-person visit to the doctor’s office and often involves uncomfortable needles and itchy hives. At-home testing can be done from the comfort of your home and only requires a small finger prick making it more convenient than traditional skin prick testing. Order an at-home allergy test from Wyndly today to identify exactly what you’re allergic to.


The treatment of allergic sinusitis depends on the cause and the severity of your symptoms. Here are four treatment options that may be recommended by your doctor:


Antihistamines are medications that reduce the effects of histamine, a chemical released in response to an allergic reaction. Antihistamines can be effective at temporarily managing symptoms such as sneezing and itching. While a popular treatment method, antihistamines only provide short-term relief.


Nasal decongestants help to temporarily reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and unblock the airways, allowing you to breathe more easily. They can be taken orally or as nasal decongestant sprays and are available over the counter.

Steroid Nasal Sprays

Steroid nasal sprays reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and help to clear airways. Nasal corticosteroids may be prescribed if you have more severe symptoms that do not respond to other treatments. Nasal saline sprays can also help to reduce inflammation and improve nasal congestion.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy is the most effective treatment for long-term relief from your allergy symptoms. Sublingual immunotherapy involves taking a small dose of allergens under the tongue to slowly build up your tolerance. This can help to desensitize your immune system to your allergies through repeated exposure, eventually resulting in long-term relief from your symptoms. The treatment is usually available both as allergy drops and allergy tablets and can be safely taken at home.

Take Our Allergy Assessment

If you think you may be suffering from sinusitis due to allergies, our allergy doctors at Wyndly Health can help. Take our allergy assessment today and start your journey to a life free from allergies!

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