Allergies versus colds – How to tell the difference?

Spring is in the air (although it’s snowing as I’m writing this blog), which means prime allergy season has begun! The common cold is also still prevalent in the ever-changing weather of Ohio.  Here are some facts about the differences between two similar presenting diseases and some tips on how to treat them! ALLERGIES Students may be more likely to develop allergies while attending college.  This could be due to living in a different region that has different pollens in the air and students may be exposed to different allergens.  Allergy symptoms occur quickly after exposure to an allergen and will last as long as you are exposed to the allergen.  Common symptoms include: runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, wheezing, and watery or itchy/dry eyes.

Common causes of seasonal allergies: pollen, dust, dust mites, food, animal dander, and mold

COLDS

Colds are caused by a virus, and very rarely are caused by bacteria. They mimic the same symptoms as allergies, but may also include fever, sore throat, and body aches.  Colds develop over several days and usually your body can clear the virus within several days to a week. Warning signs that you may have a bacterial infection (NOT the common cold) are vomiting or diarrhea along with fever and body aches and other common cold/allergy symptoms.  If you have these symptoms it’s important to see a doctor and stay hydrated!

Both allergies and the common cold have the same over-the-counter (OTC) treatment choices and non-medication related recommendations to help alleviate symptoms.

Common OTC Treatments:

  • Non-drowsy antihistamines – reduce symptoms of allergies like runny nose, itchy/watery eyes
    • Ex. Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine)
    • Counseling tips: take daily during allergy season to prevent and reduce symptoms
  • Nasal steroids – helps reduce nasal inflammation, nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing
    • Ex. Flonase (fluticasone), Nasacort (triamcinolone)
    • Counseling tips: requires a few days of treatment to notice effect on symptom improvement, and needs to be taken on a daily basis to continue to work
  • Nasal decongestants – helps reduce nasal congestion (stuffy nose)
    • Ex. Afrin nasal spray (oxymetazoline)
    • Counseling tips: should only be used for 3-4 days
  • Oral decongestants – helps reduce nasal and chest congestion
    • Ex. Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)
    • Counseling tips: do NOT use if you have high blood pressure without asking your doctor first
  • Artificial tears/saline solution – helps relieve dry or itchy eye irritation
    • Ex. Visine products, Artificial Tears
  • Pain relievers – reduce headaches associated with allergies or virus
    • Ex. Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil (ibuprofen)
    • Counseling tips: don’t use more than the recommended dosing; be aware these ingredients may be in other OTC products and will count towards your maximum daily dose!
  • Cough drops – helps relieve cough associated with nasal drainage

 Non-Medicine Treatment:

  • Avoid allergens as much as possible!

 

  • Use a humidifier in your home to help with congestion
  • Wash hands/face often during pollen season
  • Avoid rubbing itchy eyes, try and use a cold compress instead to relieve symptoms
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses during pollen season to reduce eye irritation
  • Close windows/doors at home when pollen count is high

If you ever have questions about which OTC products can help your allergies or reduce the symptoms associated with a cold don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist or doctor!

Lindsey Glaze, PharmD Candidate 2016

2 thoughts on “Allergies versus colds – How to tell the difference?

Leave a Reply to Tina Comston Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *