Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Common Cold vs. Allergies

Itchy eyes. Runny nose. Scratchy, sore throat. Sneezing. Chapped nose and lips. Fatigue.

The question looms:

Is it a cold or allergies?

I believe seasonal allergies are often mistaken for a common cold.

A cold is a virus that invades your body. Allergies are your body's way of telling you that it has taken in or come in contact with something that irritates you, and it is trying to flush it out.

A cold virus usually takes 1-2 weeks to run its course, but allergies can last for months. While a virus is contagious, allergies are not.

Here are some tips for ways we deal with colds and allergies in our house.

  • Wash hands very often.

  • Disinfect handles and surfaces that are high traffic with anti-bacterial wipes or sprays.

  • Don't leave dirty tissues lying around.

  • Don't use antihistamine (claritin/benadryl) drugs as they will stuff you up and retain the virus longer.

  • Use a decongestant/expectorant if you're miserable and some ibuprofen to deal with the aches & pains.

  • Sipping hot tea or chicken noodle soup is great. Lots of soup! Adding honey to your tea can help to coat and soothe a sore throat. Stay away from acidic, sugary teas. Herbal is best.

  • Keep lots of soft Kleenex and lip balm on hand. I've even used lip balm on chapped noses.

  • Lots of rest & lots of fluids.

  • Having someone read to you is better than t.v. because watching t.v. can be stressful for your body.

  • Use a humidifier where you sleep. Take a hot shower. The moist air acts as an expectorant and helps to clear out your sinuses and lungs.
Allergies (hayfever):
  • Again, washing hands is key when you're dealing with bodily fluids so we don't pass germs.

  • Eating cold foods such as popsicles and ice cream and drinking ice water can help soothe the swollen, irritated tissue in your sinuses and help reduce the production of mucus. I've found hot foods only exacerbate symptoms.

  • Taking an antihistamine such as Allegra, Claritin, or Benadryl can be very helpful, but be aware they can cause drowsiness, so use caution when driving or operating machinery. They can also cause some people to feel hyper, and it may be better if they are taken in the morning or afternoon rather than evening.

  • Eye drops can often help calm itchy eyes. Some people have even used a saline wash for their sinuses. I've never done this.

  • Being in an air-conditioned room can help because A/C systems use an air filter, which filters out the pollens, molds, and other culprits that are causing your allergy attack.
What are tips and tricks you use in your home when it comes to colds and allergies?


Barb said...

But how to differentiate between a viral attack and an allergic response?

Try wearing a dust/pollen mask for an hour or so, if it's allergies, your symptoms will subside when the irritants are filtered out (similar to being in an air-conditioned room). If it's a viral invasion, the mask will make little difference.

Kari Hornaday said...

You're right, Mom! I always forget that trick. Probably because I never have dust masks in the house. ;) It's a great tip for those of us whose homes don't have central air-conditioning. Thanks for the reminder!