I am sometimes told by persons of this “head cold” that they have had for most of their life. They often complain of sneezing, coughing and “bringing–up lots of cold” and there are times when it acts up. Once I get into a more detailed discussion and examination of these patients, most of the times the “head cold” is actually a seasonal allergy.
WHAT ARE SEASONAL ALLERGIES?
Seasonal allergies, also called “hay fever,” are a group of conditions that can cause sneezing, a stuffy nose, or a runny nose. Symptoms occur only at certain times of the year. Most seasonal allergies are caused by:
-Pollens from trees, grasses, or weeds
-Mold spores, which grow when the weather is humid, wet, or damp
Normally, people breathe in these substances without a problem. When a person has a seasonal allergy, his or her immune system acts as if the substance is harmful to the body. This causes symptoms.
Many people first get seasonal allergies when they are children or young adults. Seasonal allergies are life-long, but symptoms can get better or worse over time. Seasonal allergies sometimes run in families.
Some people have symptoms like those of seasonal allergies, but their symptoms last all year. Year-round symptoms are usually caused by:
-Insects, such as dust mites and cockroaches
-Animals, such as cats and dogs
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SEASONAL ALLERGIES?
Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include:
-Stuffy nose, runny nose, or sneezing a lot – People tend to complain of persistent cold/mucus that they have coming out of their nose or they cough up.
-Itchy or red eyes
-Sore throat or itching of the throat or ears
-Waking up at night or trouble sleeping from blocked nose, which can lead to feeling tired during the day.
HOW ARE SEASONAL ALLERGIES TREATED?
Each person has a different presentation and will need a different combination of treatment. Your doctor should be able to discuss with you the benefits and downsides of the different treatments. The right treatment for you will depend a lot on your symptoms and other health problems. Adherence to your treatment is very vital, since poor compliance can lead to worsening or persistence of your symptoms.
CAN SEASONAL ALLERGY SYMPTOMS BE PREVENTED?
Yes. If you get symptoms at the same time every year, talk with your doctor. Some people can prevent symptoms by starting their medicine a week or 2 before that time of the year.
You can also help prevent symptoms by avoiding the things you are allergic to. For example, people who are allergic to pollen can:
-Stay inside during the times of the year when they have symptoms
-Keep car and house windows closed, and use air conditioning instead
-Take a shower before bed to rinse pollen off their hair and skin
-Wear a dust mask if they need to be outside
So the next time you hear someone complain of their persistent head cold, let them see a doctor, it may most likely be a seasonal allergy which can be treated.