guide to sinusitis symptom and treatment

Complete Guide to Sinusitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment Plans

Sinusitis is a common condition affecting around three million people, according to the Mayo Clinic. For relief, many sufferers of sinusitis seek the help of an ear, nose and throat doctor, or ENT. There is another source of help, however—allergists are specialists in sinusitis and an excellent first choice for sinusitis treatment.

Whether you’re considering contacting an allergy specialist or ENT for treatment for sinusitis, this guide to sinusitis provides an overview of the condition that can help you prepare for your appointment.

How Allergies Can Lead to Sinusitis

The body’s response to pollen and other allergens in North Florida’s environment often results in nasal and sinus inflammation, which can lead to blocked sinus passages. Our sinuses are meant to act as a natural flush by draining thin mucus that traps particles and bacteria. When allergies flare, blockages can develop and prevent the sinuses from draining properly, leading to sinusitis and infections. 

In his annual pollen allergy forecast, our own Dr. Patrick DeMarco explains that allergies in Florida are rampant virtually year-round in the Jacksonville area due to the abundance of pollinating species we have. Allergies are often unseen culprits behind sinusitis and they can go undiagnosed for years.

Oak and pine pollen are among the most abundant types of pollen in our area. These two tree species release massive amounts of pollen into the air each year. 

Other tree species in North Florida that are significant pollen producers include: 

  • Birch
  • Bayberry
  • Elm
  • Maple
  • Juniper
  • Mulberry

Jacksonville’s temperate weather in late winter and early spring means more opportunities for outdoor activities, but allergy sufferers know that the warmer weather also means tree pollen levels will be high.  

Allergy Specialists Treat Sinusitis

We treat sinusitis every day at Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida. In the most basic sense, sinusitis is inflammation involving the sinuses around the nose (also known as the paranasal sinuses). These sinuses are air-filled pockets located around the face, forehead, eyes and cheek areas. Virus, bacteria, fungi and allergies are all causes of sinusitis. 

For many people, however, it is the abundant environmental allergens we have here in Jacksonville which trigger the early symptoms of sinusitis. Those allergens stimulate the immune system to cause inflammation throughout the nasal passages and sinuses. That inflammation makes allergic individuals more susceptible to developing sinusitis. 

Chronic Sinusitis and Allergies

When sinusitis is left untreated, your sinusitis infection can progress and lead to much more serious issues. A relatively minor case of sinusitis can develop into chronic sinusitis which can cause repeated flare-ups of symptoms. These flare ups can be lengthy with symptoms lasting 12 weeks or longer at a time. 

That’s why when you experience sinusitis symptoms, it’s important to get treated by a sinusitis specialist. Our allergists can help discern what type sinusitis you may have, as well as determine the root causes. 

Sinusitis vs Rhinitis & Sinusitis vs Covid: Symptoms to Look For

There are many other conditions that can mimic sinusitis and doing an internet search of these can quickly make a patient feel like they have an array of conditions. That’s why when you’re experiencing symptoms of sinusitis or other sinus infections, it’s important to make an appointment with a board certified allergist.

One of the conditions which may be confused with sinusitis is rhinitis, but these two conditions are quite different. Rhinitis symptoms include:

  • Sneezing, stuffy, or runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Clear nasal drainage
  • Snoring

Another very common condition we’re seeing currently is COVID-19 infections. Since COVID-19 is a variant of the cold virus, many of the symptoms can be similar to sinusitis which is where testing and treatment early are highly recommended. COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue and muscle aches
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Some patients experience nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea and body aches (similar to the flu)

Sinus infections in general have many associated symptoms similar to those above such as a fever or headache, tenderness around the facial area, nasal drainage and/or general stuffiness, sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes, altered sense of smell, tooth aches, or a sore throat. Most likely, classifying what kind of viral or bacterial infection you have is going to take a nose swab and culture test.

When it’s Necessary to See a Sinusitis Specialist

Painful pressure around the brow of the forehead, behind your eyes, or cheek area are all signs that something may be affecting your sinuses. You may also have post-nasal drainage, are congested, or have a fever. 

When the symptoms last longer than a week, get worse after seeming to get better, or when sinusitis symptoms keep occurring, it’s definitely time to see a sinusitis specialist who can help identify what’s causing your issues. Schedule your appointment today to start the process.

How Allergists Treat Sinusitis

Board certified allergists/immunologists are skilled practitioners in a wide range of allergy-related conditions, infections, and ailments. Our physicians have the experience and equipment necessary to pinpoint your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help make you well. By following an evidenced-based roadmap, we’re able to guide patients on a path of recovery to ensure long term health and wellness. 

Diagnosing Sinusitis 

The first step in treating sinusitis is to diagnose the cause of the patient’s discomfort. An allergy specialist will start with a series of directed questions that can help understand a patient’s medical history and how it plays into the symptoms they are experiencing. An examination of the patient’s ears, nose, and throat will help spot any tell-tale signs like redness, swelling, or a blockage. 

Treatment Options for Sinusitis

Allergists seek to minimize the reliance on medication and favor a more natural response. Jax Allergy’s board certified allergists always have the goal of using the “least amount of medications (and preferably none if possible) to control symptoms while maintaining favorable outcomes.” This is generally how allergists treat sinusitis differently. We help to educate our patients on the diagnosis and causes of your chronic nasal and sinus inflammation. 

For example, nasal saline irrigation is an extremely effective way to treat the symptoms of sinusitis and the equipment can be purchased just about anywhere, from online retailers like Amazon to any corner pharmacy. 

Other treatment options for the symptoms of sinusitis which may be prescribed include:

  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • Prescription nasal antihistamine sprays
  • Antibiotics if indicated
  • Decongestants and OTC cold medicines
  • OTC pain and fever medicines

Long-term or chronic sinusitis is going to require additional treatment planning. Often, an allergist is helping to pinpoint the underlying condition and treat the issue at the source. A patient may require intranasal steroid sprays, saline rinses, and antihistamine sprays among the many different treatment options available today. 

Set Up an Appointment to Treat Sinusitis

If you’ve experienced the pain and pressure of sinusitis, especially as a chronic condition, it’s time to get lasting relief. Make an appointment to come see our board certified allergists at Asthma and Allergy Specialists of North Florida. We’ll look at your symptoms, diagnose the condition, and create a treatment plan based on the best medical information to help you recover quickly.

Sinusitis FAQs

Is sinusitis an infection?

Sinusitis can be caused by infections, growths in the sinuses, or inflammation in the lining of the sinuses which can be caused by allergies or pollutants. When the nasal cavities become infected, swollen, and inflamed, you may have sinusitis and should seek an allergy and sinusitis specialist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.

When should you see a doctor for sinusitis? 

Sinusitis can cause an array of different symptoms. Among these, if you have a fever, pain or swelling around the facial area, headaches, sore throat, tooth pain, or a stiff neck, it’s definitely a good idea to see a sinusitis specialist and get checked out. 

Who is most likely to get sinusitis? 

Both adults and children can be affected by sinusitis. The inflammation that occurs with millions of allergy sufferers each year is also a common cause of sinusitis. However, a sinus infection can happen to anyone. Those particularly at risk include allergy sufferers, those with nasal polyps, people with asthma, and/or those with abnormal nose structures.

How can you tell if it’s sinusitis or allergies?

The most important part will be discerning whether it’s a sinus infection, allergies, or both. A sinusitis specialist can distinguish if your symptoms are due to nasal or sinus problems. Our board certified allergists can also diagnose allergy problems which are often common causes of acute and chronic sinusitis. 

How do you get sinusitis?

There are a number of causes of sinusitis including nasal polyps,a variety of underlying medical conditions, infections, and, most commonly, allergies. Allergies cause nasal and sinus inflammation, which can lead to blockages and infection. Regular exposure to environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke can also increase your risk factors for getting sinusitis. 

Can you spread sinusitis to others?

Viral sinus infections are indeed spreadable while a bacterial infection is not. Chronic sinusitis caused by allergies, polyps, or a deviated septum are not generally infectious but you should consult your doctor and avoid close contact with others until you know what’s causing your issues. 

What’s the best way to treat sinusitis?

Depending on the root causes of your sinusitis, your doctor can describe a variety of sinusitis treatment options. Most of these can be relatively mild. Our board certified allergists typically look for ways to treat sinusitis with minimal dependence on heavy medication to ensure long term wellness. Common treatments include saline nasal irrigation, allergy medications, and nasal sprays. Antibiotics may be necessary when bacterial sinusitis is present. Immunotherapy can also help chronic sinusitis symptoms. 

Is sinusitis life threatening?

In rare instances sinusitis can be life threatening if left untreated. Certain conditions could develop, such as meningitis, which is an inflammation of the membranes and fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Whenever you are experiencing symptoms of sinusitis, it’s important to get checked out by a specialist who can diagnose and treat your specific condition.

How can you relieve symptoms of sinusitis?

There are a number of self-care options that can help relieve symptoms of sinusitis including resting, drinking plenty of fluids, warm compresses for the facial area, moistening the sinus cavities, and irrigating the nasal passages.

Is there a way to keep from getting sinusitis?

You can reduce your risk factors for developing sinusitis by taking some proactive steps. 

The first is to understand your allergies and work with an allergy specialist to develop a game plan to manage and prevent symptoms. Next, you should avoid others who have sinus infections, colds, and other health issues as much as possible. Remember to wash your hands frequently, especially before you eat. Avoiding outdoor pollutants and cigarette smoke can also help lower your risk of developing sinus-related issues. Lastly, clean air in your home is a must. Make sure to change air filters at least once per month and regularly clean and dust the home.

Jacksonville Tree & Spring Pollen Allergy Forecast - 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Tree and Spring Pollen Allergies 2022

Compared to the rest of the U.S., midwinter and early spring in Jacksonville is a really beautiful time of year.

Although, our mild temperatures tend to attract folks from more frigid regions, that doesn’t mean our “cool” seasons are completely free of any downsides. In fact, if you’re allergic to tree pollen — one of the most common allergens we have here on the First Coast — you know this all too well.

Another downside? Jacksonville regularly ranks among the Worst Cities for Spring Allergies. In 2021 Jacksonville came in at #30 in the US — in 2022? We’re now up to #22 (and puts us firmly in the “worse than average” category).

Across most of the country, trees don’t release their pollen until early spring. But, thanks to our temperate climate here in North Florida, local trees usually start producing an abundance of pollen starting in February (and sometimes as early as December). Although January 2022 felt a bit cooler than normal, February warmed up and we began to see a big uptick in pollen.

If you suffer from tree pollen sensitivity, here’s a helpful guide for tree pollen allergies and our best advice for controlling a reaction this spring season.

Read more

viral asthma treatment and prevention

Understanding Viral Asthma: Treatment and Prevention of Viral Induced Asthma

Cold and flu season is no fun for anyone, but it presents special challenges for those trying to manage their asthma. Although you don’t hear as much about it as other triggers, such as allergy and exercise, viruses are actually one of the most common triggers for asthma flare-ups.

As we again enter that time of year when colds and the flu are most likely, the risk of viral asthma also increases. The more you know about this type of asthma and about viral induced asthma in children and toddlers, the better prepared you’ll be to take care of yourself and your kids.

Read more

fall allergies guide for Jacksonville 2021

The Complete Guide to Florida Fall Allergy Season 2021

Most people in Florida look forward to autumn with its pumpkin spice lattes, mild sun and cooler air. But if you’re one of the estimated 40 million fall allergy sufferers in the U.S., this time of year can be very unpleasant.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though…

With the proper precautions and correct allergy treatments, you can enjoy all that autumn has to offer.

While most people often associate allergies with spring and the pollen produced by flowering plants, fall can be the worst season to deal with allergies. As the weather here in Jacksonville cools, plants tend to release more pollen and the moist, cool air leads to increased mold growth on leaves and other surfaces.

Combined, these factors can trigger severe allergic reactions.

updated for Fall 2021

Read more

primatene mist otc asthma treatment caution

Primatene Mist OTC: Why We Believe Caution is Needed

Originally posted: Dec 2018 — UPDATED: June 2021

Disclaimer: As board-certified allergists we do not recommend Primatene Mist as a treatment for asthma symptoms. If you or someone you are responsible for is considering Primatene Mist, we recommend discussing asthma treatment with us (or your personal allergy and asthma specialist) before using this or other OTC treatments. 

If you’re a fan of this once-popular product, you can thank the manufacturers who came up with a reformulation that would satisfy environmental concerns. By switching up the propellant used in the inhaler, they were able to regain the FDA approval they had lost in 2011.

Unlike the original inhaler, this new version does not use ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Instead, is uses hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs) as a propellant.

Asthma specialists and advocacy groups, however, have concerns about the renewed over the counter availability of this medication— here’s why:

Read more

sinusitis & asthma connection jacksonville allergy specialists

Sinusitis and Asthma: What’s the Connection?

Sinusitis and asthma symptoms may be connected. Nearly half of individuals with moderate to severe asthma also experience sinusitis. Experiencing sinusitis on top of asthma can be difficult to manage when the symptoms leave you feeling sick and miserable. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and even result in more severe cases of asthma.

If you’ve experienced a combination of sinusitis and asthma, you’re not alone. Learn more about the link between these two conditions and how to treat them.

Read more

forest fire smoke allergies treatment jacksonville

How to Guard Yourself Against Forest Fire Smoke and Other Respiratory Irritants

Updated June 2020: with COVID-19 affecting many in Florida and the First coast people are opting to stay closer to home this summer. Instead of traveling for vacation, many are doing camping trips. Often people may not realize how campfire smoke and other irritants can affect their breathing and asthma. This can lead to serious health issues. Read on for more about protecting yourself from smoke and other irritants.

Read more

allergy symptoms vs covid19 symptoms

Is it the Flu, Cold, or Allergies: How to Tell The Difference

Updated: Nov 2021 — to address questions and concerns about the novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

Please see our message about COVID19 procedures at our clinics

Feeling run down and stuffed up?

Are your eyes itchy and your nose running?

One thing is for sure—you’re not feeling like yourself. But are you suffering from allergies, the common cold, or even worse, the flu or potentially coronavirus/COVID-19?

It’s not always easy to identify the cause as you might think. The symptoms for each of these illnesses frequently overlap. However, there are some tell-tale signs to be aware of that may help you determine what the problem is and decide the best course of action.

Study the following symptoms to make sure you’re properly treating the underlying cause of your discomfort. As always, remember discussing this with your physician is the best option.

Updated Nov 2021: Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19

Read more

Everything You Need to Know About Allergic Rhinitis in Jacksonville

We recently talked about dealing with pollen allergies here in Jacksonville and we’re well into hay fever season. Many of our patients suffer from allergic rhinitis triggered by seasonal allergens.

With that being said, here is some helpful information about allergic rhinitis, for our Jacksonville, Orange Park and St. Johns patients.

What is Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)?

Allergic rhinitis — what most people commonly call “hay fever” — is a set of symptoms that people experience when they breathe in any airborne substance of which they are allergic. The majority of the symptoms affect the nose, but can also affect the eyes, upper respiratory tract and lungs.

Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds is very high in the Jacksonville. These pollens, unlike other colder climates, are present in the air most of the year. However, spring allergies are often worse in susceptible individuals with tree pollen allergy since the levels are so high between February and May. Year-round allergic rhinitis sufferers may also have allergies due to dust mite, animal dander and mold.

An interesting fact is that hay fever has nothing to do with hay nor does it cause fever. The name stuck because symptoms would strike during hay-harvesting season and the symptoms became associated with hay.

What are the Risk Factors?

So who is at risk for allergic rhinitis? A major risk factor is if you have family members who already have allergic rhinitis, or who suffer from eczema or asthma. Allergic rhinitis is also more prevalent in people who already suffer from food allergies or have asthma or eczema themselves.

What are common Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms?

There are some characteristic symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Most symptoms are physical responses to allergens, but there are behavioral characteristics as well.

The most persistent symptoms are excessive nasal secretions or a runny nose and post-nasal drip. Nasal congestion is common. Itchy, red, swollen eyes and dark rings around the eyes (“allergic shiners”) come with hay fever, as does coughing, sneezing, and sore throat.

While these symptoms are frustrating, it may be helpful to remember what your body is doing: an allergen is invading your body and your body is mounting a defense to get rid of the irritant. Sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose all help to get rid of whatever is bothering you.

A common behavioral symptom is the “allergic salute.” To relieve irritation and drainage of mucus from the nose, an allergy sufferer will instinctively and habitually wipe their nose in an upward motion with the palm of their hand. This action clears mucus from the nose and temporarily opens the nasal passages allowing for clearer breathing. Unfortunately it also helps the spread of germs and doesn’t offer real relief. Disrupted sleep and fatigue may also be secondary to allergic rhinitis.

What are the treatment options for Hay Fever sufferers?

The most effective treatment for hay fever is to avoid what ails you but we realize that isn’t always an option especially with pollen allergens. For this reason there are a numerous treatment options available.

For our patients who suffer from allergic rhinitis in Jacksonville, we customize a personal allergy treatment based on your medical history and lifestyle needs. Not everyone has allergies and each allergic individual has their own specific allergy profile, similar to a fingerprint. Therefore, the first step in proper treatment is to determine your specific allergen responses by performing skin testing to regional allergens. We can then discuss specific allergen control measures depending on your sensitivities. Next we can prescribe a variety of treatment options using either medications or immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Environmental Control Measures

Once a patient’s specific allergens are identified, we are able to discuss measures to minimize exposure to the culprit allergens. While this may be difficult depending on the allergen, it is an essential and non-invasive component of allergy care.

Medication Treatments

These treatments could include prescription or over-the-counter recommendations such as corticosteroids (nasal sprays), as well as antihistamines, decongestants, or leukotriene modifiers (for example, Singulair), nasal saline irrigations and other therapies. Each of these medications work differently and may have different side effects. Therefore it is important for an allergist to tailor medical therapy to your symptoms and allergens.


If you are one of our patients who do not respond positively to medication or would rather not take medications another option for treatment may be immunotherapy or allergy shots. This method provides injections of small amounts of allergen, over the course of weeks to years, with the goal of making your body’s immune system less sensitive to allergens. With this form of treatment it may be possible to eliminate the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

We are in the heart of hay fever season here in Jacksonville. If you are suffering and need relief, call 904-730-4870 or contact us to schedule an appointment at one of the four Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida locations around Jacksonville – including in Orange Park on Kingsley Ave., Mandarin area on San Jose Blvd., or on the Westside off Normandy Blvd..