Allergies 101

Am I suffering from a cold or an allergy?
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Am I suffering from a cold or an allergy?

2010-11-05

By Dr. Normand Dubé

In order to better treat respiratory allergies, it is important to distinguish between cold symptoms and those caused by an allergic reaction to the environment.

A cold is a viral infection and therefore has a limited duration. Its symptoms, which last five to seven days, generally begin with a mild fever and a sore throat on the first day followed by nasal irritation. This will be replaced on the second day by clear nasal discharge that will develop into nasal congestion with an occasional cough that should gradually dissipate between the third and seventh day. There is no treatment other than to alleviate the symptoms if they cause too much discomfort.

As for the symptoms of allergic rhinitis due to respiratory allergies, they can arise very suddenly. They can last from several hours to several days, months or years, depending on whether or not exposure to the allergen is continuous. They consist of an itchy nose with a clear discharge and repeated sneezing with a more or less marked degree of nasal congestion. Itchy, red, watery eyes are very characteristic of an allergic reaction. There should be no associated fever. These allergic reactions can persist for up to a few hours after contact with the allergen has stopped. If exposure continues, symptoms can be relieved with anti-allergic medications, which, depending on the severity of the symptoms, may include over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription corticosteroid nasal sprays. When these treatments are ineffective, the allergist may resort to immunotherapy, a form of treatment that commonly improves tolerance to certain allergens over the long term.

Normand Dubé, M.D., FRCPC
Allergist and Immunologist


The views expressed are solely those of the author based on his/her knowledge and expertise and do not necessarily represent the views of the manufacturer.

If you think you are experiencing allergy symptoms, please consult your healthcare professional for a definitive diagnosis.

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