Every spring, summer and fall, tiny grains of pollen are released from trees, weeds and grasses. Some of the pollen ends up in your nose and throat. This can trigger a type of allergy called hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. Symptoms include sneezing, runny or clogged nose, coughing, itching eyes, nose and throat, red and watery eyes, or dark circles under the eyes.

Also known as sinusitis, rhinosinusitis occurs when the hollow air cavities in your cheekbones, around your eyes and behind your nose are inflamed. These air cavities, called sinuses, contain mucus that drains into the nose.

When something blocks the mucus from draining properly – like nasal inflammation – an infection can occur, leading to facial pain and discomfort. 

Rhinosinusitis, or sinusitis, occurs when your sinuses, the hollow air spaces within the bones surrounding the nose, are inflamed. Your sinuses produce mucus, which drains into the nose. If your nose is swollen, this can block the sinuses and cause pain. Rhinosinusitis can be caused by an infection or allergies. Symptoms include fever, weakness, fatigue, cough, congestion and postnasal drip.

What's the difference between a cold and sinusitis?

It can be very hard to distinguish a bad cold from sinusitis. Many symptoms are the same, including headache, runny nose, cough and nasal congestion. 

But unlike a cold, sinusitis symptoms include painful pressure, swelling or tenderness in the cheeks and forehead. Other symptoms include:

  • Nasal obstruction or blockage
  • Thick yellow-green nasal discharge
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste
  • Pain in your upper teeth and jaw
  • Bad breath
  • Ear pain
  • Fever

What are the types of rhinosinusitis?

There are several types of rhinosinusitis:

  • Acute, which lasts up to four weeks
  • Subacute, which lasts four to 12 weeks
  • Chronic, which lasts more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or even years
  • Recurrent, with several attacks within a year

What causes rhinosinusitis and hay fever?

There are multiple factors that may lead to rhinosinusitis, although in many cases the underlying cause may not be known. Some of the potential underlying causes or contributing factors include:

  • Allergies (allergic rhinitis)
  • Asthma
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Fungus
  • Infection (usually viral or bacterial)
  • Nasal polyps
  • Poor function of the sinus immune system due to:
    o Medications (such as chemotherapy)
    o Primary immunodeficiency disorders

Hay fever is caused by the pollen from trees, grasses or weeds. Hay fever often leads to rhinosinusitis.

How does Ohio State diagnose rhinosinusitis and hay fever?

Ohio State’s sinus care team will conduct an in-office nasal endoscopy to determine your diagnosis. During a nasal endoscopy, a narrow tube equipped with fiber optics (light) will be inserted into your nose. This tube is fitted with a small camera that will project images onto a television or computer screen for better viewing. 

A nasal endoscopy allows your doctor to look for:

  • Nasal polyps
  • Sinus infection
  • Nasal tumors
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks

Nasal endoscopy is also often used after surgery to help clean the sinus passages and improve healing.

Computed tomography (CT) scans are also helpful when diagnosing rhinosinusitis. CT scans help identify signs of sinus inflammation, sinus tumors and other abnormalities that may benefit from medical or surgical treatment.

How does Ohio State treat rhinosinusitis and hay fever?

We aim to provide personalized, effective management for the entire range of disorders affecting the nose and sinuses. We offer contemporary medical management and, when necessary, comprehensive surgical treatment. Our physicians are experts in a wide range of sinus procedures, including difficult revision surgery, minimally invasive open approaches and minimally invasive endoscopic procures, including in-office procedures.

Taking medicines and using nasal sprays can relieve hay fever symptoms. You can also rinse out your nose using distilled or sterilized water with saline. Allergy shots can help make you less sensitive to pollen and provide long-term relief.

Treatment of sinusitis includes antibiotics, decongestants and pain relievers. Using heat pads on the inflamed area, saline nasal sprays and vaporizers can also alleviate symptoms.

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