Watery eye sinus infection: Do You Have the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?

Pay Close Attention to Symptoms to Determine if Cause is Sinus Infection or Allergies

  • By

    Shawn Bishop

April 12, 2013

Dear Mayo Clinic:

I have long suffered from allergies. But there have been times when I haven’t been sure if my symptoms are really from my allergies or may be caused by a sinus infection instead. How can I tell the difference?


Allergies and sinus infections are often mistaken for one another. But they are two separate conditions. By paying close attention to the specific symptoms you have, you can usually identify which one is more likely to be causing the problem.

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, affects the cavities around your nasal passages. The infection causes your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen. The swelling makes it hard for your sinuses to drain, and mucus builds up. You become congested and have trouble breathing through your nose. Sinusitis often causes thick yellow or green nasal discharge. A sore throat, cough or headache, as well as pressure or tenderness around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, may also accompany sinusitis.

In most cases, viruses cause sinusitis. These viral infections usually go away on their own within a week to 10 days. Self-care measures such as extra rest and fluids along with over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants can help. When sinusitis is caused by bacteria, the infection may not require treatment, either. But if it is persistent or severe, then antibiotics — such as amoxicillin, doxycycline and others — may be used to treat the infection.

Allergies can produce many of the same cold-like symptoms as a sinus infection, including sinus pressure, a runny nose and congestion. But the condition itself, called allergic rhinitis, is different. It is caused by an allergic response to allergens, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander. This reaction happens when your immune system releases chemicals, such as histamine, into your bloodstream. These immune system chemicals lead to your allergy symptoms.

One of the key ways to tell if you are experiencing allergic rhinitis is if you have itchy, watery eyes along with your other symptoms. Itchiness is rarely a symptom of a sinus infection. Another way to tell the difference is if you have very thick yellow or green nasal discharge. That is more likely a symptom of a sinus infection.

If you have seasonal allergies triggered by pollen or spores, then the timing of your symptoms may help you decide if they are likely caused by allergies. For example, tree pollen is most common in the spring. Grass pollen is common in late spring and early summer, while ragweed pollen is prevalent in the fall. Mold and fungi spores are usually more plentiful in warm-weather months. The seasons for these allergens may be different, though, depending on the region of the country where you live.

Over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, can be quite effective in relieving allergy symptoms. If you are regularly bothered by allergies, ask your doctor if a prescription nasal corticosteroid may be right for you. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat nasal inflammation and congestion, while antihistamines treat the itching and runny nose that allergies can cause.

Nasal corticosteroids can be particularly helpful if you have seasonal allergies and use them just as the allergy symptoms begin. That’s because when the season first starts, you need a lot of the allergen to cause symptoms. But as symptoms progress, lower amounts of allergen produce more symptoms. By starting the medication early, you might be able to diminish this effect and reduce your symptoms throughout the entire allergy season.

If you suspect your nasal congestion and other symptoms are the result of sinus problems rather than allergies, you may just need to be patient, take care of yourself and use over-the-counter medications as needed until the infection clears. However, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, or if they are severe, make an appointment to see your doctor.

— Juan Guarderas, M.D., Otorhinolaryngology and Allergy, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

Related articles

Consumer Health: Are you at risk for hepatitis?

World Hepatitis Day will be observed Friday, July 28, which makes this a good time to learn more about three types of hepatitis and the risk …

By Laurel Kelly • July 25, 2023

Mayo Clinic Minute: Managing migraines in the summer

Severe weather conditions are enough to give anyone a headache, but temperature fluctuations are even more problematic for migraine sufferers.
Dr. Rashmi B. Halker Singh, a …

By Sonya Goins • July 24, 2023

Are My Watery Eyes and Runny Nose Allergies or Sinusitis? | Willamette ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery

Article posted on by Willamette ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery

Up and down the Willamette Valley, people are sneezing and coughing.

The fertile beauty of the valley comes with a price: excessive pollen production in the springtime.

But it turns out your symptoms might not be related to allergies at all.

Spring is well underway now in Oregon and across the U.S.

Unfortunately, many people are experiencing the seasonal onslaught of springtime allergies…or at least they think they are.

In many cases, the symptoms attributed to allergies are actually the result of chronic sinus infections.

Learning to tell them apart can result in quicker relief.

Distinguishing Between Allergies & Sinus Infections

Somewhere between 40-50 million Americans experience seasonal allergies.

Salem residents complain of itchiness in the eyes, nose and throat; watery eyes; nasal congestion; runny nose; coughing; sneezing; hoarseness; post-nasal drip; irritability and fatigue.

These are your body’s defense mechanism against allergens.

But these symptoms are also very similar to those associated with sinusitis, a chronic infection of the sinuses that affects 37 million Americans every year.

If efforts at treating your symptoms have failed to bring relief, it may be that you have misdiagnosed yourself.

Short of paying a visit to a Salem ear, nose and throat specialist, the best way to determine the cause of your symptoms is to take note of when and how often you experience them.

If you are allergic to something, symptoms usually come on shortly after contact and are more likely to occur during the spring or fall.

Pollen, molds and animal dander are the most common allergy triggers.

If your symptoms appear soon after you’ve recovered from a cold or allergies, it’s likely you are suffering from sinusitis.

In addition to the above-listed symptoms, sinusitis is often accompanied by facial pain and pressure.

Allergies are less severe during certain weather conditions (such as rainy days) and when you remain inside the home, while sinusitis symptoms aren’t likely to let up and often persist for longer than 12 weeks.

Symptom Relief for Sinusitis and Allergies

Your Salem ENT says the first line of defense against allergies is to try over-the-counter drugs first.

If these do not prove helpful, stronger prescription medications may be required.

In the even that even these don’t provide relief, immunotherapy – a long-term treatment designed to help your body build up a tolerance to the offending allergen – might be advised.

Allergy shots or drugs help many Oregonians with allergies develop immunity, but they take time – three to five years to become fully effective, on average.

OTC medications are also suggested early on for sinusitis sufferers. Antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and corticosteroids can all help reduce the severity of symptoms.

Home remedies such as warm compresses and humidifiers may also help bring relief.

If Sinus Treatment is Ineffective

When these treatments prove ineffective, your best bet may be surgery.

There are two common surgical sinus procedures; the type recommended for you will depend upon the severity of your symptoms and whether or not you have any structural issues (nasal polyps, deviated septum) that are contributing to your problems.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery, or FESS, involves insertion of a thin, flexible tool outfitted with a tiny camera lens into your nasal passages.

Images are transmitted to your surgeon, who will remove any blockages that are causing obstruction.

Balloon Sinuplasty is a less-invasive procedure that doesn’t require cutting or removal of tissue or bone.

A catheter with an affixed balloon is guided into the nasal cavity and gently inflated.

This widens the cavity and allows accumulated fluids to drain.

If “allergies” have got you down this spring and medications aren’t providing relief, contact your Salem ENT doctor for an appointment.

They’ll be able to provide you with a firm diagnosis and a treatment solution to ease your suffering.

Related Ear, Nose & Throat Posts:

  • Allergies & the Immune System
  • When Should You See An ENT?
  • Protruding Ears: Overcoming the Stigma

Our Salem ENT Doctors Location

3099 River Rd S
Salem, OR 97302

(503) 581-1567

“Dr. Strand is wonderful. In fact, all the staff are just the best. Personable, and to the point. You will be well cared for at Willamette ENT.”

Runny nose rhinitis – how to cure?


  • Risk of chronic rhinitis
  • Medical treatment of the common cold
  • Actions in the event of a runny nose

Runny nose and methods of treatment

Runny nose, or scientific rhinitis, is now becoming a real threat to the normal existence of mankind. The causes of a runny nose are different. This includes immunity weakened as a result of a passive lifestyle, an unfavorable environment, exposure to allergens – plant pollen, animal hair, exposure to synthetic substances. The result is always the same – inflammation of the nasal mucosa, discharge and watery eyes, general malaise.

It should be understood that rhinitis is not a disease. Manifestations of a runny nose are a symptom that the body is being attacked by harmful foreign elements – infection, cold air, dust, allergens. In this case, the nose acts as the first protective barrier on the way of harmful factors into the internal organs. At the same time, the mucus secreted by the nose is aggressive towards undesirable, “foreign” elements.

Most people treat the common cold with disdain, believing that the symptoms will go away on their own. It is believed that rhinitis cannot lead to death or disability. This is a dangerous delusion. In fact, a minor runny nose sometimes leads to the most severe complications, a hospital bed, disability. Of course, sometimes a healthy body copes with rhinitis on its own, usually within a week. But this is more the exception than the rule.

It should be understood that not every sneeze or any discharge from the nose is a threat to the body. Liquid discharge from the nose, or the so-called snot, is a normal reaction of the body to harmful external factors. The mucous secretions contain interferon and lasocymin – substances that fight infection. In a normal state, the body is able to produce these substances in the required amount.

It is not watery discharge that should cause concern, but thickened and dried mucus, which is a sign that the body can no longer cope with a bacterial infection on its own. It is very important not to miss this moment and start fighting the infection immediately.

Risk of chronic rhinitis

Prolonged discharge or persistent nasal congestion is a serious threat. This is usually a harbinger of possible complications, the flow of a common cold into a dangerous disease, most often sinusitis. Sinusitis is when one or more of the paranasal sinuses become inflamed. According to the site of inflammation, the following varieties are distinguished:

Sinusitis – a lesion of the maxillary nasal cavity. Manifestations of the disease with this variety are headache in the forehead, difficulty breathing through the nose, fever, chills and fever. Untimely treatment leads the state of the disease from the acute phase to chronic sinusitis. Signs of chronic sinusitis are persistent headaches.

Frontitis – damage to the frontal sinus. In this case, edema occurs in the sinus, purulent processes may occur. External manifestations of frontal sinusitis are severe headaches, nasal discharge with an unpleasant odor, respiratory failure, eye pain.

Ethmoiditis is usually characterized by inflammation of the frontal and maxillary sinuses. Typical manifestations of ethmoiditis are constant pain in the bridge of the nose at the base of the nose, general headache, swelling of the eyelids. Often manifestations of pain of a neuralgic nature. Discharge passing from serous to purulent.

Sphenoiditis is a more complex phase of ethmoiditis. In this phase, the inflammation reaches the back of the cribriform labyrinth. In this case, the headache is localized in the parietal part of the head, inside it, on the back of the head and in the orbit. Purulent discharge drains to the inside of the nasopharynx.

From the foregoing, we can conclude that the consequences of ordinary, prolonged rhinitis can be the most terrible. Therefore, at the first sign of a protracted runny nose, you should consult a doctor.

Medications for the common cold

Usually, most people try to get rid of the common cold on their own, using various various “fashionable”, widely advertised remedies. The effect of such treatment is usually zero and there is a negative result. As a result, the disease only develops. It must be remembered that if the disease is the result of a cold, then you will not find effective medicines on your own.

Conventional antibiotics, so beloved by many, can only fight bacteria. They are powerless against viruses. Do not abuse folk remedies and methods. However, everything is not so sad. Modern pharmacology provides a large selection of drugs for the common cold. The so-called vasoconstrictor drops are very effective, which reduce swelling of the nasal mucosa and facilitate breathing. The use of such drops is indicated at the stage of thickening of mucous secretions.

Please consult your doctor.

Such drops are taken no more than 3 times a day, the duration of administration is no more than 5-7 days. Long-term use of the drug leads to addiction, the body requires increasing doses to affect the edema. In this case, the body loses the ability to independently secrete protective enzymes. More sparing are the so-called drops with essential oils. They can be used for a long time.

It must be remembered that the above remedies fight the symptoms of the disease, they do not treat the cause itself. Effective treatment of the common cold fights the cause of the disease. Any medicine should be used only as prescribed by a doctor.

Actions in the event of a runny nose

At the first symptoms of the disease, use folk remedies. For most cases, this is sufficient. If after three days the symptoms do not disappear, it is possible to take immunomodulators. In case of thickening of mucous secretions, it is necessary to use vasoconstrictor drugs that prevent the occurrence of complications. If there is no improvement after a week, see a doctor.

An even better solution is to see a doctor at the first sign. This is guaranteed to lead to getting rid of the common cold.

Information checked by an expert

Vyacheslav Alekseevich Vasiliev

Chief physician. Urologist-andrologist, family doctor, surgeon, ultrasound specialist. Candidate of Medical Sciences
Work experience — 30 years


July 2023

Mon W Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
26 27 28 29 30 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 9010 1

3 4 5 6

not just a runny nose – useful information for patients, Vitbiomed clinic blog +

Text: I rina Frolova

Runny nose is the most common symptom of colds. Most of us do not pay attention to it, especially if there is no temperature. The joke that if a runny nose is not treated, it will pass in 7 days, and if treated, in a week, is known to everyone. However, a common cold can lead to serious consequences.

If a runny nose lasts longer than a week and does not go away, but on the contrary, it is accompanied by a headache, a feeling of heaviness and fullness in the forehead and cheekbones, then most likely you have developed a dangerous complication – sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the sinuses. Depending on the sinus in which inflammation has developed, there are several types of sinusitis. The most famous of them is sinusitis, inflammation of the maxillary sinuses. Less known, but no less dangerous, is frontal sinusitis (inflammation of the frontal sinus), sphenoiditis (inflammation of the sphenoid sinus) and ethmoiditis (inflammation of the ethmoid sinus). Complications of influenza and SARS usually become sinusitis and frontal sinusitis.

The main danger of sinusitis is that the sinuses are located in close proximity to the brain. Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the sinuses is accompanied by the formation of pus. Blood, passing through the blood vessels of the sinuses, enters directly into the brain, and along with the blood flow, infectious agents (pus) can also enter the brain, which can lead to the development of meningitis – inflammation of the meninges.

And this is not to mention the fact that sinusitis and frontal sinusitis in themselves cause extremely painful sensations.

So how can you avoid dangerous complications?

Often, the development of sinusitis results from improper treatment of the “common cold” that accompanies acute respiratory infections or influenza. A runny nose becomes chronic, the infection is not removed, but develops and leads to complications.

At first, the discharge from a cold is watery, transparent, then clear mucus begins to be released. If the discharge becomes yellow-green and thick, then a purulent process has developed.

If this happens, you should consult a doctor (general practitioner or otolaryngologist), who will conduct an examination (examination, x-ray of the sinuses) and prescribe antibiotic treatment and physiotherapy. Prolonged infection without treatment can lead to severe complications. The puncture of the sinuses for pumping out pus is currently rarely used, in severely advanced stages of sinusitis.

Blow your nose properly! With a common cold, you can provoke sinusitis if you blow your nose through both nostrils at once. So infected mucus can get from the nasal cavity into the sinus, and sinusitis will develop. You should blow your nose by pressing the nostril with your finger in turn.

Sinusitis or just a bad cold?

Sinusitis differs from a severe runny nose by the following features:

  • Severe nasal congestion somewhere “deep” (blowing your nose does not help get rid of discomfort)
  • Pain in the paranasal sinuses (pressure on the points in the middle of the cheek and at the inner corner of the eye is painful)
  • Lachrymation
  • Feeling of heaviness in the bridge of the nose, cheekbones, above and below the eyes
  • Dull pain in forehead and cheekbones
  • Temperature increase
  • Swelling of the face in the area of ​​the eyes, cheekbones

Sinusitis does not develop immediately, it becomes a complication of the common cold in ARVI, acute respiratory infections and influenza.