I don't know anyone who hasn't had a sinus infection at least once in their life. If you are that person, I wanna know how you've managed all this time without one! Seriously! Teach me your ways.
I don't get sinus infections often, thankfully, but when they do strike it can be a cavalcade of awfulness. The pressure. The pain. The constant dripping...dripping...dripping....
I'm also fortunate that I've avoided seasonal allergies, but I sympathize with those for whom it is an annual annoyance, with the coughing, itching, scratchiness, and dripping...dripping...dripping...
Both sinus infections and allergies can result in sinus cavities that are full of yucky stuff that just ruins your day. It's important to know the difference between an allergic response from the body and a true infection in order to get to the correct treatment, and possibly even a good routine for prevention.
What are sinuses, anyway?
Simply stated, they are holes in your body. You actually have sinuses in several places other than your face, but the ones in the front of the skull are the ones that we tend to focus on the most. They are lined with a thin mucous membrane that can become inflamed and infected under the right (or horribly wrong) conditions. Despite what we thought in years past, they don't do a whole lot for our singing resonance.
This webpage has a fantastic chart that gives the main symptoms of both allergies and sinus infections. I'd suggest bookmarking this one! Students who are still getting to know their bodies may not be able to tell the difference yet, and while we can't diagnose anything for our clients, we can give them information that can help.
Generally speaking, an infection can have symptoms like bad breath, an inability to blow your nose (soooooo frustrating!), and fever that allergies will not. Conversely, allergies will have symptoms like itchiness that will not occur in sinus infections. Knowing those differences can be incredibly helpful for alleviating the worst symptoms. And if you or your clients have recurring issues with either infections or allergies, thorough evaluation by the right medical professional can be a godsend.
If you need to treat any symptoms over the counter, it's important to be aware of possible side effects from any medications you try. The database published by the National Center for Voice and Speech is another handy webpage to bookmark. Every few years the database is updated, with the most recent update in 2020. Of the medications in the database, including many herbs and biologics, the known side effects are given.
Right now while we're in the throes of winter in the northern hemisphere, we may not have many clients with allergies yet, but come springtime it can become harder to differentiate between allergies and infection. I hope these resources can help you better steer your clients toward info that can help them navigate the pressure of sinus issues.
Questions? Let me know! Drop them in the comments below or hit the chat button on my webpage to send me a question. I'd be happy to point you toward any info you need. Here's hoping we keep our voices and our sinuses clear this year!