Seasonal Sinus Problems Caused by Allergies

Introduction - What is seasonal sinus?

Seasonal variations in humidity can impact the nasal passages, leading to dryness and increased susceptibility to sinus infections. Swelling caused by infection obstructs proper mucus drainage, resulting in sinus pressure and pain. Allergies, particularly triggered by common allergens like pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander, are a prevalent cause of sinus problems. Allergic sinusitis, often seen in childhood, is a reaction to inhaling such allergens. Individuals with a family history of allergic sinusitis may also be sensitive to certain foods and environmental allergens. Symptoms of sinus congestion accompanied by itchy, watery eyes, an itchy nose, and sneezing are likely indicative of seasonal allergies. Understanding the causes and timing of sinus problems, especially during high-pollen seasons like spring, can guide preventive measures for improved health.

Sinusitis or allergy

Seasonal Sinus Problems

Both sinusitis and allergies can result in nasal and sinus congestion, but the underlying causes differ.

In the case of allergies, the nasal passages and sinuses become swollen as a response to allergens. These allergens can include substances like pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander, to which an individual is allergic. The swelling is the body’s attempt to flush out these allergens.

On the other hand, sinusitis typically occurs due to allergies or a common cold. In some cases, it may be caused by bacterial infection, although this is less common.

When allergies or a cold are present, inflammation occurs in the nose and sinuses, obstructing the drainage of mucus. This blockage can lead to infection, along with associated pain and pressure symptoms.

Allergies tend to increase the likelihood of sinus problems because the nasal passages and sinuses often become inflamed when exposed to triggers. There are a total of eight sinus cavities:

  • Two cavities in the forehead
  • Two behind each cheekbone
  • Two within the bones between the eyes
  • Two behind each eye

These sinus cavities are paired, with one on each side of the face.

Symptoms of seasonal sinus

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Persistent runny nose
  • Post nasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Headache
  • Pressure around forehead, cheeks, nose and between the eyes
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleepwalking
  • Reduced senses of smell and taste
  • Ear pressure or pain
  • Asthma attacks
  • Low-grade fever

Causes of seasonal sinus

Seasonal Sinus Problems Caused by Allergy

Allergies can occur at any time of the year, either seasonally or year-round. Seasonal allergies may be specific to spring or fall, while year-round allergies can be triggered by factors like pets or mold, regardless of the season.

It is important not to ignore symptoms commonly experienced during the fall months. If allergies or sinus infections are left untreated, they can lead to complications affecting the lungs, nose, ears, jaw, and potentially more serious conditions such as asthma, chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, ear infections, and even arthritis.

During certain times of the year, pollen is released by weeds, trees, and grasses, causing hay fever in many individuals. When these tiny pollen grains enter the sinuses through inhalation, they trigger an allergic reaction. The immune system responds by releasing antibodies and histamines into the bloodstream, leading to symptoms like itchy eyes, a runny nose, and other allergy-related discomfort.

Additionally, certain structural factors such as a deviated septum or narrow sinus passages can impede proper drainage, increasing the risk of sinus infections.

Seasonal sinus problems

1. Blockages

When there is a blockage in the transition space (ostium) of any sinus, it can result in a bottleneck that obstructs proper drainage. As a result, mucus becomes backed up in the sinus cavity.

2. Extra sinus

Approximately 10% of individuals possess a condition that causes narrowing of the transition space, which can impact proper sinus drainage.

3. Deviated nasal septum

The nasal septum, a delicate partition of bone and cartilage within the nasal cavity, typically divides the two nasal passages evenly. However, in some individuals, due to genetic factors or past injuries, the septum may be deviated to one side. This asymmetry can lead to a smaller nasal passage and contribute to sinus problems as well as snoring.

4. Narrow sinuses

Seasonal Sinus Problems

Certain individuals exhibit natural anatomical variations that result in a longer and narrower pathway for the transition spaces to drain.

Diagnosis

An ENT specialist can diagnose seasonal sinus problems by:

  • Taking a detailed medical history and conducting a physical examination.
  • Conducting allergy skin tests to identify the specific allergen causing nasal flare-ups.
  • Performing nasal endoscopy, which involves inserting a flexible tube with a fiber optic light into the nasal passages to visualize any abnormalities in the sinuses.
  • Using computed tomography (CT) scan to assess and identify any injuries, infections, or other abnormalities in the sinuses.

Treatment

Treatment options include:

Avoidance :

For mild seasonal allergies and allergies to pet dander, avoiding exposure to allergens is the most effective approach, although complete avoidance may not always be possible.

Self-help remedies:

  • Saline nasal sprays: Rinsing the nasal passages with saline solution can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam can reduce nasal congestion.
  • Over-the-counter decongestants: These products may provide temporary relief from congestion.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays: These sprays can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages.
  • Desensitization through allergy shots: This treatment involves gradual exposure to the allergen and may be beneficial for children with pollen allergies.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers can help alleviate discomfort, but caution should be exercised when giving them to children, avoiding acetylsalicylic acid (i.e. Aspirin).

Antibiotics:

Severe bacterial infections may require antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.

Balloon sinuplasty:

This minimally invasive procedure uses small balloons to expand the openings of the sinuses, promoting improved sinus drainage with less pain, bleeding, and swelling.

Endoscopic sinus surgery:

When other treatments and medications are ineffective, surgery may be considered. It involves using a flexible tube with a fiber-optic light to visualize abnormalities in the sinuses and remove problem tissue or polyps causing nasal blockage.

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Medically reviewed by SinusDoctor,
Dr G V K Chaitanya Rao

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