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Allergies and colds seem similar but treatment varies
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Uh oh! It’s three days until New Year’s Eve and you feel like you’re getting a cold. No one wants to have to miss out on all the fun or have to stay away from friends so they don’t get sick, too.
Unfortunately, we wear ourselves down around the holidays, and we’re often exposed to germs while we’re out shopping for gifts, decorations and party foods. So it’s no surprise many of us get sick. But is it a cold or is it allergies? They have similar symptoms and one doesn’t necessarily feel much different than the other in the beginning.
Allergies and colds can be confused, especially if you don’t normally have chronic seasonal allergies. A cold usually will last two weeks or less while seasonal allergies last until the allergen that you are reacting to is gone or you are no longer exposed to it.
Cold symptoms are slightly different than allergy symptoms and include:
• Runny nose (discharge may be clear, green, yellow or white)
• Sneezing
• Cough
• Headache
• Congestion
Allergic reactions are caused when a person’s immune system interacts with foreign proteins (or allergens). If the immune reaction induced by these allergens involves IgE antibodies, then the possibility exists for an allergic reaction to occur. According to’s Facebook page, the tendency to become allergic to allergens is predetermined by the individual genetic makeup of a person and is inherited in families. If one of your parents had allergies, there is a higher-than-normal chance that you will also have allergies. This risk naturally increases if both parents are allergic. Allergy symptoms that most resemble cold symptoms include:
• Clear runny nose
• Itchy or dry eyes
• Sneezing
• Headache
There are few families living in Coastal Georgia that do not have at least one family member with an allergy. The reason for this is simple: We live in one of the allergy belts of the United States. According to’s Facebook page, the incidence of allergic diseases in the United States usually ranges from between 23-30 percent of the population but it can be significantly higher in this area.
New residents in Liberty County often want to know when the allergy season will be over. Sorry folks! The allergy season in this area seems to be never-ending. In spring, we have the tree pollen season, which runs into the grass and weed pollen season in summer. In the fall, people struggle through ragweed and mold allergy season, and in the winter, those with allergies will go into the “indoor allergy season.”
The causes of allergies are not fully understood. Allergens can be inhaled, eaten, injected (from stings or medicine), or they can come into contact with the skin, according to Some of the more common allergens are:
• pollens
• molds
• house dust mites
• animal dander and saliva (cat, dog, horse, rabbit)
• chemicals used in industry
• venom from insect stings
• foods
• medications
Allergies really have different names depending upon where in your body the reaction is occurring. If an allergic reaction occurs in your nose, eyes and sinuses, physicians call it allergic rhinitis. If the reaction occurs in the lungs, it is called asthma. According to, the most common diseases caused by allergy mechanisms are those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), asthma, eczema (allergic dermatitis), contact dermatitis, food allergy and hives. The most frequent foods responsible for causing allergic reactions are nuts, peanuts, milk, egg, wheat and soybean proteins. Unfortunately, there also are food preservatives that may induce allergy symptoms. These preservatives include metabisulfite and monosodium glutamate, states. Metabisulfites are present in most wines. Fatal allergic reactions are usually caused by severe reactions to foods, such as shellfish, peanuts and cod, or to stinging insects, such as yellow jackets and imported fire ants.
Proper allergy treatments involve three fundamental principles, according to They include:
• Avoidance of the known irritant or allergen responsible for inducing the state of hypersensitivity
• Drug therapy, which is used when avoidance of a specific allergen source, such as house dust or certain pollens, is impossible.
• Specific Allergen Immunotherapy (allergy injections), which are used to help prevent the progression of the allergic disease when avoidance and drug therapy fail to adequately control the inflammation involved in a person’s allergic disease. It is important to point out that allergen immunotherapy is the only treatment available today that can actually change a patient’s immune system back toward normal.
Educated victims of allergies and asthma do much better in life than those patients who are under-diagnosed and under-treated. When patients die from asthma attacks, it’s primarily because of under-treatment by the patient and/or under-diagnosis on the part of their physician. Researchers now are studying ways to go beyond today’s treatments. We soon may have ways to block the body’s allergic response by reducing or inhibiting the release of histamines and other chemicals that cause allergic reactions.
For more information about allergies, contact your health-care provider.
Stay well. Don’t get a cold or have an allergic reaction, and enjoy New Year Eve celebrations.

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