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allergies

Tips that will prepare you for spring allergy season
Tips that will prepare you for spring allergy season Typically, allergic symptoms are similar to those of a cold; sneezing, itchy watery eyes, sinus pain/pressure, itchy ears, itchy throat, post nasal drip, cough, or asthma.

As an allergist and immunologist, I often hear from patients who are worried about having recurrent colds. Symptoms of the cold virus are similar to allergies, and it can be difficult to differentiate from allergic disease. The good news is there are ways you can you tell the difference and tools to prevent and treat disease. As always, if you are ever unsure, speak with your doctor and/or a specialist in allergy and immunology about your concerns and to get the right diagnosis.

Recognizing a cold virus
On average, a healthy adult will get two or three colds per year; children can get as many as seven per year. So whatís the culprit interfering with all the seasonal fun? The cold is a self limited illness caused by over 100 different types of viruses; the most common viruses causing a cold are the Rhinovirus and Coronovirus. How do you know you are getting a cold? Symptoms typically start with a sore throat, and then progress to sneezing, nasal congestion, clear nasal discharge, mild headache, cough, a low grade fever of less than 100.3 F, feeling tired, and mild muscle aches. According to a study by Hedley and Gwaltney at the University of Virginia in 2004, you are most contagious on the second and third days of illness, but you may remain contagious up to two weeks after you were infected. Symptoms, if untreated can last from five to fourteen days.


Luckily for allergy suffers, allergic disease is treatable! Identifying what you are allergic to is the first step. This will empower you to change your environment to reduce exposure
Preventive measures
What can you do to keep yourself healthy? Wash your hands! Cold viruses are most commonly spread through small particle droplets transmitted via sneezing and coughing. Hand-to-hand contact is the most common cause, but donít forget hard surfaces like your desk and phone.

Do you smoke? Quit! Smoking tobacco increases the likelihood that youíll get a cold virus. Having a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or asthma also makes you more susceptible to getting sick. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will make sure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, D, and Zinc. Toss seeds or nuts into a green leafy salad at lunch, replace chips with yogurt as a mid-day snack, and roast an orange vegetable (carrots, or orange squash) at dinner. These vitamins are essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Proven remedy
Weíve all heard many a tale about what remedies fight off a cold, but only one is proven. A 2011 review by the Cochrane Collaboration asked the question does taking zinc gluconate lozenges have an effect on the duration of the cold. They found that taking zinc gluconate, in products like Cold-EEZE, at the first sign of a cold can decrease the duration of a cold by up to 42 percent. Getting plenty of sleep and extra hydration are other tools to get you feeling better sooner.

Telling the difference between colds and allergies
How can you tell you have a cold or allergy? Itís difficult and you may need help from your doctor or specialist in allergy and immunology. Approximately 20 percent of the US population is allergic. Each year this number rises and we arenít sure why. Typically, allergic symptoms are similar to those of a cold; sneezing, itchy watery eyes, sinus pain/pressure, itchy ears, itchy throat, post nasal drip, cough, or asthma. Another clue may be a family or personal history of allergic disease (eczema, asthma, hay fever, drug allergy or food allergy). Allergies are not contagious and not caused by a virus, but by environmental exposures like animals or dust. Typically, symptoms are seasonal or chronic. Persons with allergies will often know what their triggers are (cat/dog exposure, dust, mold, and/or pollen in the spring and fall). Sadly, people with allergies though often feel they are chronically sick, which can interfere with school, work, and their personal relationships.

Hope for allergy suffers
Luckily for allergy suffers, allergic disease is treatable! Identifying what you are allergic to is the first step. This will empower you to change your environment to reduce exposure. Speak with an allergist/immunologist or your primary physician about being tested. Medications such as anti-histamines, and nasal sprays containing anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids can help you reduce symptoms and get you back to your life. In persistent and more severe cases, your physician may recommend allergy shots. This is a way of semi-permanently changing your immune system to create tolerance in your body to your environmental triggers.

Allergies and colds can be difficult to distinguish, but with a little information youíll be ready to face the spring season feeling well. Good luck!



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"Tips that will prepare you for spring allergy season"
   authored by:
Allergy
Dr. Jennifer Collins, MD has been an Assistant Professor and physician specializing in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in the Department of Otolaryngology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEEI) since September 2009.
Dr. Collins is a diplo...



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