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The common cold is caused by viruses (mainly rhinoviruses) that get into the cells lining the nose, pharynx, and bronchi. Skin Allergies (atopic or contact dermatitis): Most commonly triggered by plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Insect Allergies: Most commonly caused by bee and wasp stings, venomous ant bites, and cockroach and dust mites.
Many of my patients are not sure how to tell the difference between a common cold and allergies. Duration: Colds don’t usually last longer than 5 to 7 days, but allergies can last as long as you’re exposed to the thing you’re allergic to, the allergen. Onset of Symptoms: Cold viruses take about three days (from the time of infection) to cause symptoms. In terms of preventing allergic reactions, the first step is to find out what you’re allergic to. Reduce Allergens in the Home: Frequent dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning (wear a face mask to prevent breathing in dust and dander while cleaning) can reduce allergy triggers. Reduce Your Exposure Time: If your allergy trigger is pollen, showering after you come indoors can help to reduce exposure time. Although allergies can be greatly reduced by avoiding your specific allergic triggers, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid them. Antihistamines: During an allergic reaction, the body releases a substance known as histamine. Nasal Decongestants: Nasal decongestants reduce swelling in your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe.
Nasal Allergy Symptom Controllers (Mass Cell Stabilizers):  Like antihistamines, nasal allergy symptom controllers (also known as mast cell stabilizers) also reduce the effects of histamine, but in a different way. Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers: Ibuprofen, aspirin (for adults), and acetaminophen, can be used to reduce fever and aches.
Cough Suppressants: Cough suppressants are helpful if your cough is keeping you awake at night, or is making you uncomfortable. Cough Expectorants:  Sometimes cold viruses trigger the body to produce a large amount of thick mucus. Nasal Decongestants: The membrane in your nose can swell with a cold making it harder to breathe through your nose.
Multi-Symptom Cold Medicines: Multi-symptom cold medicines often contain a combination of active ingredients to treat pain, fever, nasal and chest congestion, and cough. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to determine the best allergy management strategy, depending on your living and work environment and unique sensitivities.
KnowYourOTCs.org content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.


Pollen levels around the country are rapidly increasing at the same time that some of my patients are catching cold viruses at the tail-end of winter.
Sometimes the body mistakes a harmless substance (like pollen or dust) for a dangerous invader. The body’s immune system reacts to these viruses in that it opens up blood vessels and increases mucus secretion.
However, skin contact with cockroach and dust mite allergens, certain foods, or latex may also trigger symptoms of skin allergies. Penicillin is the most common drug allergy, though there are many other drugs that may cause allergic reactions. It’s easy to get confused, since colds and allergies share some (but not all) of the same symptoms. The sneezing, watery eyes, etc., from an allergy can happen as soon as you are in contact with the allergen.
Doctors who specialize in allergy and immunology can help patients discover what might be causing their specific allergies with skin, patch, and blood tests. Some people find glasses or sunglasses helpful in reducing the amount of pollen that enters the eye and facemasks can help to reduce the number of particles inhaled. Histamine causes tiny blood vessels in the nose and throat to become leaky, resulting in tissue swelling and increased mucus production. Nasal allergy symptom controllers reduce how much histamine is released into the body when a person has an allergic reaction.
The good news is that there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications and products that can treat your symptoms.
If you feel that you are having trouble coughing out the mucus because it is too thick, guaifenesin-based medications can be helpful. While these medications may provide extra convenience since they treat a variety of symptoms, it’s really important to only take medications that treat your specific symptoms and to avoid taking two medications with the same active ingredients.
With careful diagnosis and treatment, most people can find a way to manage their allergies successfully.
As moms, so often we spend most of our days focusing on everyone else and it can be easy to forget to take care of ourselves as well. If your family isn’t getting the vitamins and minerals they need from food alone, dietary..
How can you tell if your runny nose and watery eyes are a result of allergies or a cold virus? In fact, allergies are the fifth leading chronic, or long-term, disease in the United States, and the third most common chronic disease among children under 18-years-old. This results in a release of chemicals from immune cells, which can cause sneezing, itchy, runny nose or eyes, rashes or hives, inflamed eyes, skin, or lungs.


For example, sometimes it’s difficult to know if your allergy trigger is pollen, pets, mold spores, or a combination of different triggers. Histamine may also cause constriction of the smooth muscle in the airways, and can produce asthma symptoms. The nasal allergy symptom controller ingredient contained in OTC allergy medicines is cromolyn sodium.  Nasal allergy symptom controllers containing cromolyn sodium are applied directly inside of the nose.
Pseudoephedrine andphenylephrine are the two most common active ingredients in OTC decongestants. Also, please note that young children (under 4 years of age) should not be given certain cough and cold medicines; check with your pediatrician before giving any medicine to young children and babies.
Don’t lose heart if you’re struggling with allergy symptoms – a physician can help you develop a plan to improve your situation. Roger Edward Collingwood Altounyan (1922–1987) was a Syrian Armenian physician and pharmacologist who discovered cromolyn sodium (which he isolated from an Egyptian plant-based muscle relaxant) as a remedy for asthma. Sometimes it’s difficult to decode the symptoms, but I have some quick tips for telling the difference between the two. In severe allergic reactions, whole body reactions may require immediate medical attention. Once you have an understanding of your allergy trigger(s), it’s best to avoid contact with them as much as possible.
Keep pets out of the bedroom if you’re allergic to their dander; that way you get 7-8 hours of dander-free time each night when you sleep. Topical nasal decongestants are applied directly inside of the nose in the form of drops or sprays. There are also nasal decongestant sprays available, but they should not be used for more than three days at a time. See the tip sheet, “Giving Oral OTC Cough and Cold Medicines to Children,” for more information. And if you have a cold instead of allergies – be encouraged that most cold viruses fully resolve in a week or two, and that rest, fluids, or OTC medications can help you manage your symptoms more comfortably. I also have some treatment options that will help you make it through spring without having to buy extra tissues! If dust mites are a trigger, washing your sheets in very hot water or putting them in a hot drier for at least 20 minutes can kill them.
Topical nasal decongestants should not be used for more than three days in a row, however, because frequent or prolonged use may cause nasal congestion to recur or get worse.



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