If you have nasal congestion that doesn’t seem to go away, or it appears to resolve, only to return later, you may have sinusitis. Different from a sinus infection, sinusitis is characterized by inflammation in one or more of your four sinuses. It’s considered chronic when it lingers for several weeks.

At Riviera Allergy Medical Center in Redondo Beach, California, allergy and immunology specialist Ulrike Ziegner, MD, routinely helps adults and children manage problems like nasal congestion. Getting to the root of nasal congestion dictates the course of treatment. 

Allergies are a common cause of nasal congestion, and when it happens to you, managing allergies helps to relieve stuffy nose and other symptoms. 

Nasal anatomy

A lot goes on beneath the surface of the nose. The sinuses are air-filled spaces in the nasal cavity. There are four pairs of sinuses, each named after the bone that contains it: maxillary, frontal, sphenoid, and ethmoid.

All of the sinuses drain back into the nasal cavity. When the sinuses become irritated, they can swell significantly, blocking the natural flow of air and causing nasal congestion. 

Symptoms of sinusitis

If you have sinusitis, you may experience:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Complete nasal obstruction
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Throat irritation

If you have at least two of the four symptoms listed below for at least 12 weeks, you may have chronic sinusitis. Dr. Ziegner evaluates your symptoms and helps you find out the cause. 

Allergies and sinusitis

Many people with sinusitis have allergies that have gone undiagnosed. It’s wise to have allergy testing to determine if allergies are causing or contributing to your sinus symptoms. 

Respiratory allergies like allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, develop when your immune system overreacts to harmless substances you inhale. 

The most common substances that trigger hay fever are:

  • Tree, grass and weed pollen 
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Mold

When you have hay fever, the immune system releases inflammatory chemicals like histamine in response to airborne substances. The nose and sinuses become inflamed, and you may experience a set of persistent symptoms.

Allergy testing can also help you figure out the source of your allergy, called an allergen. It’s not always possible to avoid allergens, but it helps to reduce your exposure. Staying indoors on very high pollen days, putting dust mite covers on pillows, and getting an air purifier are just a few ways to reduce airborne allergens. 

If Dr. Ziegner confirms that you have allergies, she puts together a personalized treatment plan to improve your sinus symptoms so you can feel better. 

When to see a doctor about sinusitis

Any time sinus problems are affecting your daily life, it’s a good idea to get help. Here are some signs that it’s time to see a doctor about your sinusitis:

  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Sinus issues that occur throughout the year or during certain seasons
  • Sinus problems that keep you from activities you enjoy and from a restful sleep
  • Chronic sinus pain

If you have chronic sinus issues, it’s time to get some help. 

Managing sinusitis

Nasal decongestants, nasal steroids, and saline rinses are not always helpful in managing sinusitis. If your test confirms that you have an allergy, an individual treatment focuses on getting it under control so you can get relief from your sinus symptoms.

There is help for chronic sinus problems, and it starts with a visit to an expert. To get started, schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner for an evaluation. The path to feeling better starts here.

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