Something's wrong, but is it a cold or an allergy?


A strong sneeze

Your nose is stuffy and it itches. Something's wrong, but is it a cold or an allergy?

"Colds and nasal allergies have similar symptoms, and both can occur at any time of the year," says Dr. Kathy Rickard, Director of U.S. Respiratory Medical Affairs at Glaxo Wellcome Inc., the nation's leading pharmaceutical research company.

So how do you tell the difference? According to Dr. Rickard, the following checklist may help to identify your symptoms.

Cold

Allergy

If your nose is stuffy, itchy and sneezy, it usually means that you have a nasal allergy, not a cold. To be sure, ask your doctor. But it helps to have enough facts in hand to help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

"Pay attention to what your body is telling you," Dr. Rickard says. "An accurate patient history is extremely important in confirming the diagnosis of nasal allergies."

Some questions to ask yourself: Are your symptoms getting worse, better or staying the same? When do they occur? How long is your discomfort? What are you doing when you sneeze or your nose itches?

Allergies occur when the body reacts negatively to environmental factors. When allergens like dust or pollen enter the nose, the body mistakes them for enemies and attacks, causing the nose to swell and become inflamed.

There are two types of allergies: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergies occur mostly in spring from tree or grass pollen, or during the fall when ragweed blooms.

Perennial or year-round allergies don't go away and are usually triggered from dust, mold and animal hair.

If one of your parents has allergies, you have a one-in-three chance of getting them. Seasonal allergies affect up to 10 percent of school-age children, and 21-23 percent of adolescents. Each section of the country has its own allergy season, depending on geography, vegetation and climate.

According to Dr. Rickard, the best way to stay allergy-free is to know the allergens that cause the problem and avoid them. But when that's not possible, a variety of allergy treatments is available.

"Medicines to combat nasal allergies include antihistamines for sneezing, itchy or runny nose; decongestants to shrink nasal blood vessels; shots to make the body less sensitive to certain allergy-causing agents; and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays that work directly to reduce the symptoms of a sneezing, itchy and runny nose," said Dr. Rickard. "With the increased appreciation that nasal allergies are due to an inflammatory process, anti-inflammatory nasal sprays have taken on a greater role in allergy treatment."

But remember, before taking any medication to treat nasal allergies or the symptoms of any other illness or disease, always consult your doctor.

For more information about nasal allergies, send for a free brochure by writing Consumer Affairs, Glaxo Wellcome Inc., 5 Moore Drive, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709, or call toll-free 1-800-437-0992.(NAPSI)


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