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How to Know if It’s An Allergy or a Cold

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Everyone will at some time or another have to deal with a stuffy head, headaches, sinus problems, and other symptoms that are often indications of an illness of some kind. However, when you notice that the symptoms are frequent or unrelenting in many ways despite common treatments, you may not really be sick. You may be dealing with an allergic reaction to something.

Dealing with allergies are not the same as dealing with an actual illness. While the symptoms can at times feel similar, allergies require a different type of treatment altogether. They are not like a viral infection or bacteria that has begun to spread so treating them in the same way will not yield the results you’re hoping for. According to WebMD, “Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system. People who have allergies have an immune system that reacts to a usually harmless substance in the environment. This substance (pollen, mold, and animal dander, for example) is called an allergen.”

These allergens affect at least two out of every ten people in the country and can be very costly. On average, treating allergies can be very expensive, especially if you don’t know you have one, costing Americans more than a half billion dollars a year in doctor visits, hospital stays, and loss of work. Knowing when you’re suffering from an allergy as opposed to a cold or the flu can help to cut much of those costs and get the right treatment the first time.

Symptoms of Allergies

Almost everyone is allergic to something, but probably the most common allergies that people have to contend with are food allergies. Symptoms may vary depending on the type of allergy they have. However, quite frequently you’ll see either signs of:

Hives: raised areas of skin that are extremely itchy and red Eczema: raised areas of skin that are red and scaly Asthma: wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Gastrointestinal problems: vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and bloating. Itching and swelling: rash appearing around or near the mouth area, itching and swelling of the throat. Anaphylaxis: a life-threatening reaction that could involve flushing, anxiety, sneezing, dizziness, breathing difficulties, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, fainting, and even shock.

In addition, symptoms could easily mimic those of a cold or flu. In some cases, reactions to food do not necessarily have to occur from eating the food. For some just touching or smelling to allergen can cause a reaction.

Getting the Proper Diagnosis

It is important that if you suspect you or someone you know has an allergy that you get a proper diagnosis. Considering the fact that so many people suffer from allergies, it may be only natural to conclude that a diagnosis should be relatively easy, but to get an accurate diagnosis, there is specialized training involved. As it explains at the ACAAI, “Two key steps in the process of allergy diagnosis are the medical history and allergy test selection. Allergists use their skills in these areas to help more patients feel well, stay active during the day, and rest at night. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.”

The first step in getting relief from your chronic allergy symptoms is to see an allergist or an immunologist. With careful testing and analyzing of your medical background, they will be able to narrow down the offending culprit and start you on a treatment that can bring needed relief.

The best way to treat an allergy is to avoid the triggers whenever possible. This can be a challenge if you don’t know what the allergen actually is. If it is a food allergy, dining out could be a problem and if it is an environmental factor, many areas you go to may be out of your control.

Treating and Controlling Allergic Reactions

One of the challenges of treating and controlling allergies has to do with a lack of knowledge and understanding of the allergy itself. Even if you get treatment from your medical doctor you may find that you’re not getting enough relief. This is why it is so important to see an allergist or immunologist. These will be up to date on possible treatment options that can bring more relief to the patient. As Prevention Magazine explains, “While 80% took allergy medications, one-quarter of those still had stuffed-up noses, sinus pressure, fatigue, sneezing, or watery eyes, and nearly one-third still had postnasal drip.”

Taking practical steps to treat your allergies and not just settling for what’s obvious can save you a great deal of time and money over your lifetime. Make sure that you find out what allergens your body is reacting to, change your environment whenever possible, consult with an allergist and get the latest treatment possible, and never give up in finding the right solution to bring you relief from your suffering.