Cold vs Allergies

When someone has a runny nose and a cough it may be difficult to distinguish between a cold and an allergy. Allergies typically have sneezing and an itchy nose as the predominate symptom.  While colds may have some sneezing they typically have more congestion and fatigue. Allergies are caused by exposure to something the patient is allergic to. This can be an animal or commonly house dust mites. Allergies can also be seasonal and triggered by pollens or other allergens in the air. Colds are caused by viral infections.  Allergies are best treated with antihistamines. Colds are best treated with decongestants, expectorates, and anti-inflammatory agents .

Allergies can be diagnosed when there is runny nose, itchy nose, and itchy watery eyes. This is brought on by some type of trigger. The trigger may be easy to identify such as a cats or long haired dogs. It may be less obvious. House dust mights is a very common allergic trigger. This is often in mattresses or other furniture. If you find allergy symptoms to be predominately at night or first thing in the morning, house dust mights in the mattress is a possible cause. Try changing mattresses, using a vacuum on the mattress, or covering it in a plastic cover. This may bring relief from the allergy symptoms. Vacuuming furniture such as couches may also help. If allergy symptoms mostly come on at certain times of the year the allergen may be something in the air such as pollens. These are called seasonal allergies.

Allergies are first treated with antihistamines. These medications are over-the-counter and do not require a prescription. Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are brand names of non-sedating antihistamines. These can be taken during the day as they do not cause sleepiness. Benadryl is the classic sedating antihistamine and is a good choice at bedtime. If antihistamines  are not controlling the allergy symptoms, a visit to the doctor may be needed. The doctor can confirm this is an allergy problem rather than an infection like a cold. The doctor may also prescribe a nasal steroid. Nasal steroids work locally on the tissues in the nasal passages and can work well to relieve allergy symptoms. They do not have the same type of dangerous side effects that steroids taken orally or by injection can have.

Allergies that cause a rash are a different type of allergy. These are usually from eating something you are allergic to or touching an allergen. The rsh is usually red and blotchy. Topical steroid creams like hydrocortisone work well for this type of rash. Some people have severe allergies that can be caused form certain foods or often bee stings. These types of allergies can cause an asthma like response or a severe drop in blood pressure. these allergies are less common but can be life threatening. People with these types of severe allergies should always carry an EpiPen. The Epipen can be obtained from your doctor. It is a self administered injection of epinephrin that can be used upon exposure to a life threatening allergen. The shot is given by the patient themselves and can reverse the serious effects of a severe allergy. If an EpiPen is needed the patient should then proceded to the emergency room for further treatment.