Posted: Monday, September 25, 2023

Is It Allergies or Something Else?

It’s that time of year again. Is it allergies? Is it a cold? Maybe it’s sinusitis or the flu? Whatever it is, you don’t feel good, and you want to feel better. Do you run to the drug store, CareToday Clinic or make an appointment with your doctor? “I typically look at specific symptoms, timing of symptoms, patient prior history and what, if anything, is going around. Clear nasal drainage with congestion, itchy watery eyes and sneezing are classic allergy symptoms. Patients can sometimes present with cough, sore throat and fatigue due to allergies. However, cough and sore throat also can be signs of a viral upper respiratory illness. It can get even more confusing with the clear nasal drainage adults can have with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinoviruses. That’s when I start looking at the timing of symptoms,” said Dr. Bryan Tigner with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Ear, Nose and Throat.

If the symptoms correlate with recent activity such as outdoor sports, cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn or gardening, then it’s probably allergies. What if the patient also is experiencing body aches and mild fever? Or has been exposed to coworkers, students or family members with similar symptoms? “Then I start considering infectious etiology such as viruses or bacteria. Timing is important when trying to differentiate between bacteria and viruses because symptoms can be very similar. For instance, yellow or green discharge does not necessarily mean bacteria. I get more concerned about bacterial infections if symptoms persist seven days or longer, or quickly worsen after the illness seems to have plateaued. Additionally, a sinus infection typically is associated with facial pressure and/or dental pain,” Tigner said.

So how do you treat your symptoms? If your history is more suggestive of allergies, the drug store probably has what you need to relieve symptoms. “I like nasal steroids because they address congestion, nasal drainage, nasal itching with sneezing and post-nasal drainage more effectively than antihistamines. I recommend antihistamines for patients who complain of brain fog, hives or other systemic symptoms of allergies,” Tigner explained.

Most viral sinus infections and colds only require over-the-counter remedies. A pharmacist can be helpful in recommending medicines for your specific symptoms based on your medical history. It’s time to go to the CareToday Clinic or your primary care provider for sinusitis symptoms lasting a week or longer. There, the provider can accurately diagnose your illness and recommend the best treatment to help you feel better faster. “Please keep in mind that antibiotics are not always required. Though beneficial in the right setting, antibiotics can have significant side effects. Hopefully, these guidelines help you navigate the fall allergy, cold and sinus season. If you find you have allergy symptoms more than two seasons a year or recurrent sinus infections, please come see me. We offer allergy testing, allergy shots, and minimally invasive procedures or surgeries to help you breathe better, sleep better and live better,” Tigner said.

To make an appointment with Dr. Tigner at Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Ear, Nose and Throat, call 865-238-6460.

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