Conditions Related to Allergies

Individuals with nasal allergies can sometimes develop other medical problems that are related to allergies or have symptoms that are similar to allergy symptoms.


Your sinuses are hollow cavities located behind your nose and above your eyes. When your nose becomes swollen and congested with mucus, bacteria in the mucus can get trapped in your sinuses. The bacteria multiply, and an infection may develop.


What to Watch for. A sinus infection can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • thick nasal or postnasal discharge
  • pain in your cheeks, forehead, or around your eyes
  • congested nose
  • cough
  • low fever
  • dizziness

Sinusitis can be acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis may last for up to 2 weeks. Chronic sinusitis can last from 2 weeks to many months.

How Sinusitis is Treated. Treatment differs for different types of sinusitis. Talk with your doctor if you have the symptoms described above or if you are receiving treatment for your sinus infection and it doesn't clear up within the time your doctor said. Sinus infections can be easily treated. But they can also become a very serious problem. In rare cases, untreated sinus infections can lead to an infection of the brain, called meningitis. That can cause brain damage. Untreated infections can also cause a blood clot to form in the veins around your sinuses. That can affect the brain in a way similar to a stroke. Contact your doctor right away if you develop a fever or pain and stiffness in your neck.

The right treatment for allergies helps drain your sinuses and prevents constant pain.

Nasal Polyps

Constant swelling or infection in the nose from nasal allergies can be associated with nasal polyps. These fluid-filled sacs look like stalks that hang from the sinus cavity. If they become large enough, they can make breathing difficult. Treating them may require surgery. Smaller polyps can sometimes be treated with nasal corticosteroids.

What to Watch for. If your difficulty breathing isn't relieved by allergy medications, you may have nasal polyps. See your doctor.

Ear Infections

Most children get one or more ear infections, which usually don't cause any long-term health problems. However, those with nasal allergies can experience recurrent ear infections. The same thing can happen to adults with chronic allergies, although it's less likely. Chronic ear infections can permanently damage your hearing.

Some experts believe that allergic reactions block the eustachian tubes, which run from your middle ear to your nasal passages. The blockage can promote infections.

What to Watch for. If you experience ear pain or have difficulty hearing, see your doctor.


Asthma and Other Problems

Asthma Attacks

While the connection between allergies and asthma is not fully understood, experts know that allergies can trigger asthma.

  • Many people who have nasal allergies also have asthma.
  • One of the major risk factors for asthma is becoming sensitized to allergens. These are the same substances that cause nasal allergies.
  • Allergens that cause nasal allergies, such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and outdoor pollens, are also associated with asthma.
  • People who have nasal allergies report more asthma symptoms during pollen season.
  • Inflammation plays a role in both nasal allergies and asthma.
  • Allergic reactions in the nasal passages can make asthma worse.

Controlling symptoms of nasal allergies can lessen asthma attacks.


Emotional/Social Problems Related to Allergies

In addition to the physical problems they cause, nasal allergies can cause the following range of social and emotional problems.

  • Embarrassment. It's embarrassing and frustrating to have a constantly runny or clogged nose.
  • Bad breath. Nasal allergies can cause your breath to have an unpleasant odor.
  • Sleep disturbances. The sleep disturbances associated with nasal allergies can cause irritability and fatigue.
  • Depression. Some studies have linked nasal allergies to shyness and depression.


Lots More Information

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Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University Board certified in Allergy and Immunology Last updated June 2008