EXCLUSIVE: Expert tells you how one can differentiate between a common cold and allergic rhinitis
Itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and headache. Most of us misunderstand these symptoms for a common cold that will go away on its own. However, while these symptoms may overlap with a common cold, they are allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis refers to the inflammation of the inside of the nose due to an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mold, or flakes of skin from certain animals.
Common cold, on the other hand, is a viral infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract) that is usually harmless. Though, it will make you feel uncomfortable for, at least, 4 to 5 days.
In order to get the right treatment, it is imperative for you to distinguish between whether you have allergic rhinitis or a common cold. How, you ask? Dr. Sheetal Radia, Consultant Otorhinolaryngology and Head & Neck Oncosurgery, Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, has an answer.
“Though some symptoms of common cold and allergy tend to overlap with each other, it is possible to distinguish between cold and allergy. Similar symptoms are runny nose, nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, and post-nasal drip. However, itchy and watery eyes are signs of an allergy due to dust or pollen. Moreover, a severe cold is accompanied by fever, especially in children, but it is not an allergy symptom,” explains Radia.
A sore throat, she adds, is seen during an allergy but is more common with a cold. Body ache is not seen during allergic rhinitis but is a common occurrence during a cold. “Some people with allergies tend to get eczema, which is not a symptom of a cold. The common cold will go away after a few days. But allergy symptoms will last up to weeks or months if the allergens are present in the air,” Radia tells you.
In some people, allergic rhinitis may trigger a sinus infection. The red flags of sinus infection, Radia says, are facial pain, tenderness, and swelling, sinus headache, fever, pressure on the ears and teeth, stuffy nose, postnasal drainage, sore throat, swelling, pus-like nasal discharge, puffy eyes, pressure in the sinuses, bad breath, ear pain, fatigue, weakness, and sneezing.
But if these symptoms are accompanied by a fever that comes during the night and around the same you may want to seek professional help. “It can be a viral infection. It will need immediate attention,” says Radia.
If you are prone to getting seasonal allergies, Radia suggests a few ways that will help you stay safe.
Saline nasal irrigation: It will allow you to clear mucus from your nose and manage allergy symptoms. It will also wash out any bacteria or allergies that one has inhaled. Do it only after speaking to the doctor.
Go for probiotics: These can reduce allergy symptoms, and produce a stronger immune response to common allergens.
Take Vitamin C: To reduce symptoms like congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. The recommended dose is 2,000 milligrams per day.
Change the clothes once you return home: You need to be cautious and remove the shoes before entering the house. Then, don’t forget to wash your skin and hair to remove as much pollen as possible and put your clothes in the washing machine.
Mask-up: It can help protect from dust, molds, allergens, and other harmful pollutants causing allergies.
Opt for a well-balanced diet: Eat fresh fruit and vegetables to boost antioxidants and Vitamin C levels and reduce inflammation, and get that much-needed relief from an allergy. “Don’t forget to hydrate yourself and try to drink a lot of water,” says Radia.
These will come in handy
Apart from the aforementioned ways, Radia has a few tips to share that will help you keep allergic rhinitis at bay.
Do take steam on a regular basis.
Keep your AC well-maintained, and dust-free to avoid allergies.
Don’t forget to wear sunglasses while you are out to protect your eyes from dust.
Remember to avoid humidity, tobacco smoke, second hand-smoking, air pollution, and aerosol sprays.
Do take allergy shots or medication as suggested by the doctor.
Avoid pets and pet dander inside the house that can cause and aggravate allergies.
Avoid stress, harsh fumes-fragrances, and smoking to keep allergies at bay.