Sinusitis and allergies

Sinusitis and allergies

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis occurs when the nasal sinuses, air filled cavities in the bones surrounding the eyes, nose and in the cheekbones, become inflamed. This inflammation causes symptoms such as headache, facial pain and thick mucus draining from the nose.1 Sinusitis is usually due to a bacterial infection and is more common in winter, often following on from a cold. If not treated properly, it may become chronic and last for months, or possibly longer.2

Allergies, hayfever and sinusitis: is there a link?

Yes. People who suffer from allergies and hayfever are more likely to develop sinusitis. In fact, allergy is one of the main risk factors involved in the development of the condition. This is because substances that trigger an allergic reaction, such as air pollution, dust mites, mould spores, pollen or cigarette smoke may lead to chronic inflammation of the mucus membranes lining the sinus cavities.2 This inflammation prevents bacteria from being removed from the sinuses, increasing the risk of a secondary bacterial infection.3

Easing the symptoms of allergy related sinusitis

It is important to treat sinusitis symptoms promptly as this helps to reduce the need for antibiotic treatment. Allergy related sinusitis can often be chronic or recurring. If this is the case, the underlying cause, such as allergy, should be identified and treated as well. Steam inhalations are helpful and are cheap and easy to do. Using a bowl of hot water and a towel over your head, breathe in as much steam as possible to help thin the mucus and make it easier to drain. Flushing of the nasal passages can be done using a saline nasal spray or empty syringe filled with store‐bought or homemade saline solution.3 Other treatment options include antihistamines and decongestants, which can be taken orally or as a nasal spray. These treatments may reduce the amount of mucus in the sinuses and provide temporary relief from hayfever and sinusitis symptoms.2

  1. Better Health Channel, Sinusitis, 2011, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles .nsf/pages/Sinusitis,10/05/2013
  2. Natural Standard, Sinusitis, 2013, http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/conditions/all/allergysinusitis.asp?#causes, 10/05/2013
  3. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Sinusitis and Allergy, 2010,http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/aer/infobulletins/2010pdf/AER_Sinusitis_and_Allergy.pdf, 10/05/2013