Allergy or Cold. Which One Is it?

Allergy or Cold. Which One Is It?

Although some of their symptoms are similar, colds and allergies are very different. A cold is usually the result of exposure to a virus such as rhinovirus, whereas an allergic reaction may be caused by exposure to dust, pet or insect dander, grasses or pollens, or other environmental allergens. As annoying as either of these may be to the sufferer, both may lead to allergic rhinitis (hay fever), nonallergic rhinitis (often less serious as it doesn’t engage the immune system) or rhinosinusitis, also known as sinusitis or a sinus infection, a far worse illness.

The best way to know the difference is by the normal duration of each. A cold generally lasts only several days; an allergic reaction will last as long as the exposure (days, weeks, months) but often abated by avoiding the allergen. If symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days, or worsen after 7-10 days then rhinosinusitis may be suspected.

How the illness develops is also a good indicator as to which is which. Symptoms of a cold will often build, and spread throughout the home or workplace to others. Symptoms of allergy manifest very suddenly, may come and go, and allergic reactions are not contagious to others. Severity and duration of allergic rhinitis may be shortened or relieved by preventative exposure and treatment with antihistamines.

Normally, most colds develop as a sore throat, bouts of coughing, and nasal congestion which may lead to mild fever and body aches (the flu also). Allergic rhinitis is symptomatic in most sufferers as a runny or stuffed nose, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing and wheezing, but no fever. Rhinosinusitis develops as a high-pressure, painful headache; swelling of the eyes and cheeks; thick, coloured mucus; bad breath or bad tasting post-nasal drip; and the usual cold symptoms but lasting longer than 7 to 10 days and up to four weeks for acute sinusitis, or three months or longer in chronic sinusitis.

Now you know the difference, what can you do?

Cold – Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat chicken soup, and try your choice of over-the-counter cold and flu medicines to relieve the worst symptoms. Wipe down doorknobs and handles more frequently and avoid contact with others. Don’t be a hero and go to work which will surely spread the virus around, and pick another time to support your favourite charity’s Polar Bear Dip fundraiser to not worsen symptoms and cause infection. Remember, a cold is contagious so cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands frequently to reduce contamination to others. Binge-watching your favourite TV show is optional. Symptoms should clear within a week.

Allergy – If you have not already, your first step is to consult your primary healthcare provider for a referral to an allergist to be tested, then stay away from your allergens to reduce symptoms. Especially at times of seasonal change, do a deep, thorough house-cleaning. Bedding should be laundered in a long, hot wash to get rid of dust mites and dander. Separate clothes that may have been exposed to allergens and wash in hot water. Consult with your physician to create an action plan for preventative and treatment strategies for allergies that may include sublingual or subcutaneous immunotherapy prescribed by an allergist.

Rhinosinusitis – The pain and pressure around the eyes, nose and forehead are telltale signs of sinusitis due to swelling and poor drainage of mucus. People with allergies are more likely to suffer sinus problems such as sinusitis. Often caused by the same rhinoviruses contributing to a cold or flu, sinus infections may be resolved in as little as two weeks without antibiotics. Acute sinusitis will often last less than four weeks but may develop from a cold virus, leading to a bacterial infection. Chronic sinusitis will last three months or longer. For any case of sinusitis, one should be assessed by an allergist or physician to determine the appropriate treatment protocol.

© Copyright 2017 Quantum Allergy Canada. All rights reserved.

(Created with resources from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.)

Back to School Allergy Preparation

Back to School Allergy Preparation

For many parents and kids, “Back to School” is the most wonderful time of the year, but likely for different reasons. Children are excited about reuniting with friends while parents are happy for a little more “space” and school year routines for the kids. Planning for Back to School takes some work, and for kids with allergies, consider these preventative strategies for the best preparation.

Here are some helpful steps:

First and foremost, if you suspect your child has an allergy, have him/her tested by an allergist or immunologist to identify all allergens. Children with allergy may need to be retested annually.

  1. Inform teachers and other parents of your child’s allergy. Ask for a tour of the school to identify potential problem areas. Most schools understand and support special needs for children with allergy and can assist in allergy management, and many have formalized allergy treatment plans. Be sure they know what to do if an allergic reaction occurs.
  2. Create a checklist for managing your child’s allergy. If an emergency reaction is possible, ensure teachers and school staff understand symptoms of life-threatening allergy response. Give them the checklist and ask for prevention assistance. This may need to be done annually as staff and grade levels change.
  3. Teach children with allergy to follow their required health practices whether for food or environmental/insect allergies. For food allergies washing hands, reading food labels, and not sharing foods with friends are important considerations.
  4. Prevent respiratory reactions by following prescribed treatment for allergic rhinitis and/or asthma caused by pollen, chalk dust, dust mites, insects, dander and mold which are often found at schools.
  5. Reminders are great and if necessary, set reminders on electronic devices or use other methods to ensure kids take their medicines at required times or follow regimens.
  6. Always have any necessary emergency medications in a kit, backpack, or nearby during school or off-site school activities.

Asthma is triggered by many different allergic reactions, and at school, commonly by back to school stress, environmental changes (new schools!), seasonal changes, increased activities, pollen, insects and other allergens entering open windows. Having a Back to School allergy prevention plan is the best preparation to ensure your child doesn’t become ill or miss classes due to preventable incidents.


© Copyright 2017 Quantum Allergy Canada. All rights reserved.


(Created with resources from American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.)

Autumn Allergies!

Autumn and Allergy

The leaves start to show off their warm colours and the lingering summer air cools; sure signs that the inevitability of autumn is here! As many people with allergies know, the shift in season also brings on increased allergic response and the stuffy nose, sneezing, itching and general malaise that accompanies the season for them.

Unfortunately, if you had an allergic response last fall, you will likely be exposed to the same allergens, such as ragweed and/or mould, and have a similar allergic response this year. Consult your family physician or allergist for a personalized preventative strategy, but here are some general suggestions on getting through the season.

While cleaning up the yard in autumn, be aware that many garden insects are prolific at this time of year and potential exposure may increase. Those with insect allergies should bundle up, covering arms, legs and wear garden gloves at least, while being more visually vigilant to avoid the insects known to cause allergic reactions. If anaphylaxis is possible, be sure to keep your Epi-Pen nearby.

For some, especially those who live near water, autumn is a peak breeding season for insects. Consider calling a pest control company specializing in insects to spray around your home and decrease populations before the warm weather re-arrives next spring. If concerned about chemical pesticide sprays, another option is to invest in a good “bug zapper” to deal with flying insects. There are many varieties of electric insect killers available for outdoor use, and for those who may be allergic to insect or rodent dander/excretions there are many electronic pest deterrents that can help keep them out of your home. It is during this time of year that many pests are more likely to move into your home as the weather cools.

Autumn’s weather change also brings natural vegetation growth and decay which can cause an increase in pollen and mould while stormier days spread these spores and pollens more easily. Allergic rhinitis or breathing difficulties will also likely increase and even the lingering humidity and summer heat in very early autumn may prolong rhinitis or hay fever. Fortunately, many eventually will find relief as the weather continues to cool.

Many people do a Spring Cleaning, but it is also advisable to do an Autumn Cleaning indoors to rid the home of dust, mites, and other environmental allergens that may have collected through open windows and doors during the summer. Wear non-allergenic gloves and face mask while cleaning, and follow any protocols given to you by your allergist or physician for preventing exposure to toxic environmental allergens. A deep cleaning may expose hidden entryways into the home for dust/pollen, insects and animal pests.

Lastly, discuss your specific needs with your family physician or allergist for treatment options for any allergies whether they occur during autumn or at other times of the year.


© Copyright 2017 Quantum Allergy Canada. All rights reserved.

(Created with resources from American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.)