Health

Is it an Allergy or the Common Cold?

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By Joseph Halphen PA-C,  
Lake After Hours Central
    Every year, people suffer from simple symptoms of allergies and the common cold. Unfortunately, many fail to address these problems effectively because of their inability to recognize what the actual symptoms are. So, is it an allergy or just a cold? 
    Symptom-wise, an allergy differs from a cold because it rarely if ever induces fever, aches, pains, and extreme exhaustion. It rarely causes headaches and chest discomfort. Sometimes, allergies cause mild fatigue, sore throat and cough. Sneezing, runny and stuffy nose are most common. On the contrary, a cold may cause mild to moderate chest discomfort, cough is also more common. In fact, the cough may manifest as a hacking or dry cough. Sore throat is more common in a cold than in allergies. Unlike allergies which never induce aches and fever, a cold can contribute to slight pain and a mild fever (although rare). 
    One must recognize the symptoms of a cold and allergies properly in order to effectively address them. Once the diagnosis of either a cold or allergy has been established, it is the right time to begin treatment with the appropriate medications. Some drugs, like antihistamines and steroids, may be used for both allergy and cold. Nevertheless, allergies usually necessitate prescription nasal steroids while a patient suffering from a cold may need aspirin and other medications like ibuprofen to combat the aches and pains, if there are any. 
    It is called the “common cold” for good reason. There are over one billion colds in the United States each year. You and your children will probably have more colds than any other type of illness. Colds are the most common reason that children miss school and parents miss work. Parents often get colds from their children. Children can get many colds every year; they usually get them from other children. A cold can spread quickly through schools or daycares. Colds can occur at any time of the year, but they are most common in the winter or rainy seasons. A cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose.
    Treatment of the common cold is usually symptomatic. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your cold go away faster, but can help you feel better. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before giving your child any type of over-the-counter or nonprescription cough medicine, even if the label says it is made for children. These medicines likely will not work for children, and may have serious side effects. Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold; they will not help and may make the situation worse. Thick yellow or green nasal discharge normally occurs with a cold after a few days but does not indicate that there is a bacterial cause. If it does not get better within 10 to 14 days, then your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
    Allergies usually happen because a person has been exposed to an allergen that he or she easily gets an allergic reaction to. If you know what substances or things you are allergic to then you must get away from them. Some of the common allergens are pollen, molds, animal dander, cockroaches and house dust mites among others. 
    Your healthcare practitioner will emphasize the importance of treating the initial signs of either allergies or a cold.  In the case of allergies, if left unchecked, the person suffering may develop far more complicated conditions like asthma and/or sinus infection. Similarly, untreated cold symptoms may lead to sinus congestion, asthma and infection of the middle ear. 
 

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