Allergies are extremely common, more so in some parts of the country than in others. However, anyone can develop an allergy at any time, to almost anything. How do you know if you have an allergy?
1. Respiratory symptoms:watery runny nose, itchy nose, itchy throat, dry cough or minimally wet cough, wheezing, sneezing, sinus pain and pressure
2. Eye symptoms: watery eyes, itchy eyes, redness, swelling of eyelids.
3. Skin symptoms: red rash, sometimes bumpy or scaly, sometimes welts like mosquito bites, eczema
4. Other: generally feeling ill or blah, fatigue, headaches.
What can be confused with allergies? Often people think they have a cold or the flu when they have an allergy. How do you tell the difference? Colds cause a lot more malaise, sore throat (not just itchy or scratchy, but pain), wet cough, thicker nasal mucus, and only last about 6-7 days. Allergies cause watery mucus, lots of itching, and go on and on. The flu causes a fever and severe malaise-meaning you feel so bad you usually end up in bed for a week or even longer. Body aches, headaches, wet cough, nausea and decreased appetite are common with the flu and do not occur with allergies.
Some people have eye infections. These usually last 3-7 days and are characterized by thicker eye discharge and more redness of the eyes. Danger signs for eye are a painful eye, decreased vision, or a change in the size of your pupil. See the doctor immediately for any of these symptoms.
Many people get rashes from contact with various things or because they have hereditary skin conditions like psoriasis. Some contact skin rashes are also a form of allergy. If you have a rash, eliminate all perfumed and colored soaps, lotions, bath products, laundry detergent and fabric softener. You can get “free and clear” versions of all these things. If that doesn’t solve the problem, or if you have hives (the mosquito bite type rash) you should see your doctor. Benadryl can help itching and hives, but it won’t eliminate the underlying cause, which might be a medication, vitamin, supplement, or food that you’ve eaten.
If you have allergies, try over the counter medications first. They’re often as good as anything your doctor can prescribe. Ask your pharmacist for help. But eventually, see your doctor to help determine the cause of your allergies so you can formulate a plan to avoid contact with whatever you’re allergic to.