Newswise — DALLAS – March 02, 2023 – It’s almost that dreaded time of year, when spring and summer allergies can make life miserable for many.

Ashley Agan, M.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said steps can be taken to control symptoms and prevent infections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-quarter (25.7%) of U.S. adults and nearly 1 in 5 children have seasonal allergies. Further, about 28.9 million adults (11.6%) are diagnosed with sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses and nasal cavity, which causes nasal blockage, thick, colored drainage, and pain or pressure over the sinuses.  

Sinusitis is classified as acute when it persists for fewer than four weeks, and most acute cases are caused by viruses, said Dr. Agan, a general otolaryngologist (ENT) who treats patients with environmental allergies and sinusitis. Viral sinusitis generally lasts fewer than 10 days; if symptoms continue longer, it’s probably bacterial, she said.

Another common condition is allergic rhinitis, in which environmental allergies – such as those to tree or grass pollen – cause swelling in the nose. “The inflammation is caused by your body’s immune system reacting to particles that occur naturally in the environment,” Dr. Agan said.

Dr. Agan advises that patients with an acute sinus infection use a combination of nasal decongestants, like oxymetazoline nasal spray or pseudoephedrine, and saline sinus rinses. Decongestants should be used for only three to five days, as they can cause more problems over longer periods. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen also can be used for pain.

For inflammation related to allergies, Dr. Agan recommends daily saline nasal rinses. “Even just once each day can make a big difference,” she said. She also suggests using a nasal steroid spray daily, such as fluticasone. “Daily use, rather than as needed, will provide better results,” Dr. Agan said. Antihistamines also are helpful in treating symptoms of sneezing and runny nose as well as itchy, watery eyes.

Additionally, there are preventive measures to avoid sinus and nasal inflammation. In cases of viral sinusitis, good hygiene and mask-wearing will decrease your risk of an upper respiratory infection or sinus infection. In cases of sinusitis caused by swelling related to allergies, treating the allergies and avoiding the allergen can prevent further sinus infections and keep you breathing clearly.

If your symptoms persist longer than 10 days or worsen after starting to improve, you may have bacterial sinusitis and need antibiotics, Dr. Agan said. If your allergy symptoms do not respond to over-the-counter therapies, make an appointment with an otolaryngologist to develop a treatment plan.

UT Southwestern’s Otolaryngology Clinic in West Campus Building 3 treats ear, nose, and throat conditions, including those related to allergies and nasal and sinus disorders. Appointments may be made online or by calling 214-645-8898.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year.