During the fall and winter months, many of us will experience a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion at one time or another. These symptoms may last for a few days -- or a few weeks. When symptoms are relatively mild, and not accompanied by fevers, chills, or colorful nasal discharge, it may be difficult to tell what exactly is going on. Is it a cold, allergies, or worse -- a sinus infection. These conditions may have very similar symptoms, and even a physician may have a difficult time telling them apart. However, there are some telltale signs that can differentiate a cold from an allergy, and a cold from a sinus infection. If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to solve this mystery at home -- but if symptoms are prolonged or severe, it's best to see your doctor.
Allergies or a Cold? Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell. The symptoms of allergies can be very similar to the symptoms of the common cold, but there are some important differences. Both may cause nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip and sneezing. Itching -- especially of the eyes, nose, and sometimes the ears and throat -- is a common feature of allergies, but is usually not present with a cold. Other symptoms, such as body aches, fever and sore throat, commonly occur with a cold; these symptoms are absent with allergies.
Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, are defined as inflammation of one or more sinuses. Sinuses are hollow cavities within the bones of the face. The sinuses are lined by mucous membranes that normally produce fluid - this fluid usually drains into the nasal passages and is swallowed throughout the day. However, when the drainage sites for the sinuses are blocked, the sinuses cannot drain, and an infection may develop. The actual infection of the sinuses is most frequently caused by a viral infection (such as the common cold), but can also be bacterial in nature (and therefore responds to antibiotics). Some sinus infections are due to fungus and mold in the sinuses.
Most everyone has an idea of what an allergy is. Allergies are so common, in fact, that it seems acceptable to discuss allergy symptoms at a cocktail party with perfect strangers. An allergy is an abnormal reaction by a person's immune system to a normally harmless substance. A person without allergies would have no reaction to this substance, but when a person who is allergic encounters the trigger, the body reacts by releasing chemicals which cause allergy symptoms.
Find out important patient information for the most common medications used to treat allergies and asthma. Learn about what a medication is used for, who shouldn't take it, common side effects, and interactions with other medications. Pictures of the medication (pills, capsules, bottles, etc) are also shown.