Remedies for an Allergy Turned Sinus Infection

Runny nose, itchy, swollen eyes… most of us are familiar with the common symptoms of allergy season, and while they may make us miserable, they’re often not serious. What happens, though, when simple allergies turn into something more serious? And how can you tell when that allergy becomes a sinus infection – and what can you do about it?

Similar, but Different

Allergies and sinus infections share characteristics, but there are a few key differences that can help you distinguish one from the other.

Allergy symptoms occur when your immune system reacts to an antigen called an allergen. Your body “fires up” your immune system to produce special antibodies; these antibodies will recognize these allergens so that when they reappear, the antibodies attack; this causes those familiar symptoms, including:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Sinus and nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Hives

Many suffer allergy symptoms only seasonally, although they can also occur year-round.

Sometimes, allergies can turn into a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis. Acute bacterial sinusitis happens when bacteria infect the sinus cavities. Usually, the sinusitis is preceded by some kind of event, like an allergic reaction or cold.

Mild seasonal allergy attacks can often be handled with over-the-counter medications such as decongestants or antihistamines, but a sinus infection requires a visit to a doctor.

When an Allergy Turn into a Sinus Infection

Under normal circumstances, sinuses drain thin, slippery mucous into the nasal passages. Allergies can cause sinuses to become inflamed and swell up so that they can no longer drain; this can result in a sinus infection.

Symptoms of a sinus infection usually include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Low energy levels
  • Fever

They can also include

  • Facial pressure
  • Thick whitish, yellow or green nasal discharge
  • Pain in the upper teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Coughing

These symptoms also usually come and stay; rather than resolving on their own in a few days, you can expect that they’ll last 2 to 3 weeks.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Your doctor may order x-rays of your sinuses and/or collect a sample of your nasal mucus to test for bacteria.

Treatments include:

Nasal saline irrigation

  • Can also help remove mucus and infection if you have chronic or recurrent sinusitis.

Nasal steroid sprays

  • If your sinus infections are chronic, nasal steroid sprays like Nasonex or Flonase can both treat and prevent sinus infection recurrence. If inflammation is particularly severe, oral steroids like prednisone can be taken for 3 to 10 days, as recommended by your doctor.


  • These are used to cure the infection and prevent further complications from it. Amoxicillin is often a first choice for mild, acute sinus infections, unless you have an allergy. Others include azithromycin, clarithromycin, levofloxacin, and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, as just some examples.

Topical decongestants

  • In some cases, your doctor will advise you to take topical decongestants like Afrin for a few days during antibiotic therapy, followed by oral decongestants like Sudafed while you complete your antibiotic course.


  • In rare cases, an otolaryngologist may evaluate you and recommend surgery to remove severe sinus infections, especially if caused by nasal polyps or structural problems.

If your allergies have given you unusual pain and symptoms that aren’t easing with the usual treatments, you may have a sinus infection. Don’t suffer any longer–we can help you find the relief you need at any one of our 14 locations.