Sinus vs Allergies: Two Very Different Conditions That Have Similar Symptoms

You’re feeling that nagging, annoying pressure in your nose and head again, and nothing seems to make it go away. You just want to feel normal again. At first, you assume it’s just a bad cold, but you’ve gone through all of your normal cold treatments with no success. Now what?

A stuffy nose, congestion, and headache are symptoms of many different illnesses, including the common cold, and initially it can be difficult even for a doctor to make a definitive diagnosis. But if your symptoms are persisting past the normal time frame for a cold, it’s likely that your congestion is due to sinusitis or allergic rhinitis, which are two very different conditions that have similar symptoms. Your doctor and  Queen Creek allergists can help you determine the cause so you can find relief.

Sinus vs Allergies: Two Very Different Conditions That Have Similar Symptoms In Chandler, Arizona

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinus infections are usually the result of a severe cold. If the virus lingers, it can spread to the sinus cavities behind your cheekbones and above your eyebrows. Sinusitis can also be bacterial, but the symptoms are the same regardless of whether it’s caused by a virus or bacterial:

  • Sinus headache, pressure and pain
  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Postnasal discharge that may be yellow or green
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Tiredness
  • Low grade fever

A sinus infection usually has the hallmark symptom of facial pressure and pain. You may feel a sinus headache in your forehead, cheeks, and even in your teeth.

What Is Allergy Rhinitis?

More commonly known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis simply refers to a runny nose as a result of an allergy. An allergic reaction can be seasonal (such as a grass or pollen allergy) or perennial (when the cause is dust mites, pet hair, mold, or cockroaches). If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, your symptoms will be very similar to a sinus infection:

  • Headache and/or sinus headache
  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Postnasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

People who have allergic rhinitis typically have classic allergy symptoms such as sneezing, along with itching in their eyes, nose, mouth, throat, or skin.

How Can I Tell The Difference?

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms of sinusitis and allergic rhinitis, but there are some signs that can help your Mesa allergy expert determine the cause of your annoying symptoms.

Infection tends to cause discoloration of mucus; your snot will likely be thick and yellow or green. In contrast, allergies just make your nose run as it attempts to flush out the allergen. Your mucus will probably be thin, runny, and clear. Allergies almost always involve itching and cause red, puffy, watery eyes.

The timing of symptoms is another factor. If your symptoms come on quickly and all at one time, it’s probably an allergy. Sinus infection symptoms tend to develop more gradually as the infection develops inside your body. 

Allergy symptoms will disappear when you’re no longer exposed to the allergen, but this can be difficult to determine if your symptoms occur year-round as a result of pets or mold exposure.

How Can I Get Relief?

Mesa allergy testing

is a good place to start so you can determine the cause of your symptoms and find effective treatment. Symptoms may be managed with:


Although these medications are specifically for allergies, they can help relieve congestion and other symptoms related to both sinusitis and rhinitis.


Over the counter oral and nasal decongestants can relieve sinus pressure without the side effects that are common with antihistamines. 

Sinus rinses and nasal sprays

By clearing away the drainage, these treatments can help relieve congestion no matter what the cause, but are especially helpful for flushing out airborne allergens like pollen. 

Ibuprofen or naproxen

Sinus infections cause inflammation in the body that can be relieved with ibuprofen and naproxen.

Talk with your Chandler allergy doctor about which of these treatments may be the best option for you. If you are facing a bacterial sinus infection, antibiotics may be another solution. If you develop new symptoms such as fever, chills, or overwhelming pressure, talk with your doctor about whether your symptoms may be due to a viral or bacterial sinus infection.

Nasal congestion and sinus pressure can keep you feeling miserable for weeks or months. If you’re still suffering after a couple of weeks, talk with your doctor about whether your symptoms may be due to allergies or a sinus infection so they can help you find the best method of symptom relief. A viral infection should start to feel better with treatment, while allergies may continue for an entire season. Work with your primary care physician or a trusted allergy clinic to discover the source of your Mesa allergies so you can find relief and start feeling better!

Get Allergy Relief With Mesa’s Trusted Allergy Doctors

It can be difficult to determine if your congestion and other symptoms are due to sinusitis or allergies, but the experienced allergy doctors at San Tan Allergy and Asthma can help with testing and a diagnosis so you can get relief. As one of Arizona’s top rated allergy clinics, we are proud to provide responsive and respectful care for all of our patients and accept all major insurances. Schedule your appointment today!


San Tan Allergy & Asthma
4915 E Baseline Rd #112
Gilbert, AZ 85234

Phone: 480-626-6600