“Oh, it’s just allergies!”

After a sneeze you may hear the excuse, “Oh, it’s just allergies!” but bystanders wonder if it’s really true. During this season, airborne allergies are widespread but so is the common cold.

Is it a Cold or Allergies?

How do you know what is a sign of allergies or what is just a common cold? Scott & White allergist David Weldon, MD specializes in treating people with allergies in the Brenham/College Station area. Scott & White has allergy specialists throughout Central Texas.

“I consider a scratchy sore throat associated with lots of clear nasal drainage to be a sign of a head cold,” he says.  “Look for most people within your immediate area (e.g., co-workers, family, friends) to have similar symptoms. With allergies they are, but not always, associated with itching of the nose and or eyes.”

Itchy Nose & Eyes…Why?

Symptoms of allergies vary, but generally entail:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching of the nose and/or eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post nasal drainage
  • Nasal headaches with pain referred to the sinus distribution (this is NOT a sinus infection, says Dr. Weldon although most people feel they have one because of the drainage and facial headache)
  • Fullness of the ears
  • Some may develop asthma with coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath

Some allergies can develop later in life, especially moving to a new area. If you’re experiencing these symptoms seasonally, it may be due to some environmental factors:

Common allergies for each season include:

  • Fall—ragweed, marshelder, cocklebur
  • Winter—cedar and elm
  • Early spring—ash, oak, willow
  • Late spring—pecan and grass
  • Early summer—grass

If you have year-round allergies, it can be due to animals, dust mites, mold or other causes. If it’s raining, Dr. Weldon says it will reduce outdoor pollens but increase mold exposure.

Sneaky Allergy Symptoms

“One of the interesting and often misleading aspects of defining if someone has an allergic reaction is recognition of the reaction,” says Dr. Weldon. “Most people are aware that if they are outdoors at a time that an allergen they are allergic to is heavily pollinating, they are going to have immediate symptoms.”

He goes on to explain that what you may not recognize is a reaction with symptoms that occur about 3-4 hours later. It can cause you nasal congestion which then leads to irritation and nasal headaches and chronic drainage with coughing.

If you’re suffering from symptoms that are getting in the way of your quality of life, see a doctor. The best time to make a decision about treating allergies is right after the season when you’re feeling the worst. Dr. Weldon and others can recommend medications, controls, or allergy shots (immunotherapy) based on exams and testing.

See an Allergist

Specialists are trained to be the experts in their field.

“If you are uncomfortable with what you are being told by a physician—that is the time to ask the questions and get the answers to your satisfaction,” says Dr. Weldon.  “Good allergists take the time to explain things in English to their patients.”

If you suffer from severe allergies, find an allergy and immunology physician at Baylor Scott & White Health.

8 Things to Remember about Allergies

  • Don’t rely on the internet… if you have questions about allergies see your doctor
  • You won’t outgrow your allergies as an adult
  • Smoking anywhere in the home will affect people in other parts of the home
  • Keeping animals out of the bedroom will not help control animal dander
  • It’s better to remove ALL the carpet in your home to limit exposure to danders
  • Allergy shots should be given in a physician’s office because of the rare risk of life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis.  This allows the allergist to attempt to achieve the ideal dosing for your injections as directed in the practice parameters for the proper use of immunotherapy.
  • If you have trouble with your nasal architecture, you may be at risk for repetitive nasal headaches
  • See a board-certified allergist as they are specially trained and constantly learning the newest treatments available in the field

About the author

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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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“Oh, it’s just allergies!”