Monday, April 6, 2015

Do I have allergies or a cold?


Blog contributed by Kathleen 
Zimmerman, MDPediatrician
Do you have a constant runny or stuffy nose?  Or have you ever thought, “I can’t get rid of this cold”?  It is possible that you may actually have allergic rhinitis.  Allergic rhinitis is also called “hay fever”, although that name is misleading because there is no fever involved.

Allergic rhinitis is very common.  It affects 1 out of every 5 people in the U.S.  Allergic rhinitis happens when your immune system overreacts to a substance in the environment, such as tree or grass pollen, animal dander, or indoor particles of dust.  This causes a release of histamines in the body.  Histamines produce the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as:  stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and itching of the eyes, nose, ears, and/or mouth.  Don’t be confused – these symptoms are very similar to what is seen with a cold.  However, colds are caused by a virus and should only last 10-14 days.  Allergies can last many weeks to months and tend to occur around certain triggers in the environment or during certain times of the year.

If you are concerned you may have allergic rhinitis, discuss it with your medical provider.  He or she may recommend a trial of an over the counter medication, such as an antihistamine, which can help block the symptoms discussed above.   Or they may recommend a blood or skin test to determine what, if anything, you may be allergic to.  Often avoidance of the allergy trigger is the most important step in reducing allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Questions? Contact your primary care provider.  If you are looking for a new primary care provider, visit: primary.pinnaclehealth.org.

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