MEDICAL MATTERS: It’s just allergies … or is it?

MEDICAL MATTERS: It’s just allergies … or is it?
As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”: http://www.oaoa.com/people/health/article_df0b9662-06e6-11e7-bbb2-3f66b573b122.html

by Dr. Kevin Benson

Allergies seem to be a big part of our lives here in West Texas. It seems that no matter what the season, or the symptoms, people tend to think it’s their allergies. Or is it? Does it matter?

Environmental allergies are the body’s excessive response to things we need not respond too. For example, pollen is not really a threat to me, but my body responds to it in unhelpful ways. My nose fills with mucous, my eyes get red and itchy, that familiar cough makes its annual return. How do I know it’s my allergies versus a cold I may have been exposed to?

History: Seasonal allergies are just that, they occur at certain seasons. Everyone with allergies is a bit different, but most of us can predict the seasons where we will have trouble. Pollen allergies tend to be in the springtime, fall allergies tend to be more mold and mildew sensitivities, winter allergies are often caused by dust or dust mites blowing around as we turn on our heat. So with experience we know when it’s more likely to be allergies than a viral illness. And also why it’s difficult to know in a baby or young child, since they haven’t had as many seasons of experience to know how they respond to those environments.

Duration: Allergies can linger for weeks, sometimes months. It is very unusual for a cold to last more than a week or two. Sometimes we can be fooled though, as we or our children are recovering from one illness and fall into the trap of another illness; what feels like one illness can be a few separate ones. However, it is common to have one viral infection after another, especially in the wintertime.

Fevers: Allergies do not cause fevers. Fever is the body’s natural response to infection, and allergies are not an infection. However some people will develop secondary infections due to allergies; for instance the congestion caused by seasonal allergies can trigger ear infections or sinus infections. That is why it is always a good idea to treat those allergic symptoms as soon as possible, to prevent them from becoming something more serious.

Remember to use your judgment. If you’re not sure if you or your child has a cold or allergies and the symptoms are getting worse, changing or not improving, there’s no harm in consulting with your medical practitioner. When in doubt, check it out!

 

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