Education Articles

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Allergy or Cold?

You have a stuffy nose, and you feel lousy. How can you tell if you have allergic rhinitis or a cold? At first, you may think it’s impossible to tell the difference. Both colds and allergic rhinitis share similar symptoms of runny, stuffy nose, and sore throat. To see if you have a cold or allergic rhinitis, you may have to look more carefully at your symptoms.

Consider Timing

Do you always seem to get a cold at the same time of the year? If your nose starts running every spring or every fall, you may have seasonal allergic rhinitis and be allergic to specific types of pollen.

Do You Itch?

People with allergic rhinitis may have itchy eyes, throat, and nose, while people with colds don’t.

Any Aches?

Even though both cold and allergies are uncomfortable, people with a cold or flu feel body aches, while allergy suffers do not.

How Long Have You Had Symptoms?

Cold symptoms usually last 7-10 days and gradually get better. With allergic rhinitis, symptoms can last weeks or even months, can come on suddenly, and can go away suddenly, too.

For a definitive answer, talk with your doctor. He or she can help diagnose you and suggest treatment to help you feel better.

Q & A

What is rhinitis?

Rhinitis makes the inside of your nose become swollen and irritated. As a result of this condition, you may experience sneezing, congestion, and itchy and “runny” nose. Rhinitis may be caused by allergies or by irritants.

What causes nasal allergies?

There are several causes of nasal allergies:

  • Some people have spring-fall allergies, also known as hay fever. These allergies are often caused by pollens from trees, grasses and weeds.
  • Other people have allergies all year long. These people suffer from year-round exposure to dust mites, mold, and pets, especially cats.
  • Some people think they are experiencing nasal allergies when, in fact, their symptoms are due to non allergic rhinitis. Non allergic rhinitis can develop with colds, exposure to irritants, such as smoke or perfumes, or for unknown reasons.

Tips for Parents of Children with Hay Fever

If you’re a parent of a child with hay fever, you may wonder how you can help. The good news is that there is much that can be done to make your child feel better. Many options are available for treating hay fever with few side effects, including non-sedating antihistamines and nasal steroids. Also, there are many steps you can take to lessen your child’s exposure to the allergen that causes the allergy symptoms. These measures include running the air conditioner in the home and car to limit exposure to pollen, minimizing dust collectors at the home, such as wall to wall carpeting, knickknacks, upholstered furniture, and heavy drapes; and washing hair, body, and clothes after being outside to get rid of pollen.

Other tips:

  • Learn as much as possible.
  • Talk with your child’s doctor about where to look for more information about your child’s condition. Being more informed may help you feel more in control and less anxious.
  • Keep communication open with your child.
  • Try to share what you learn with your child. Keeping it at his or her level helps your child to understand hay fever and involve him or her as much as possible in the treatment.
  • Find ways to cope with your own stress.
  • Meditation, exercise, hobbies, spending time with family and friends, and counseling are just a few ways to relieve your stress.

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