Allergic rhinitis or cold? How to differentiate it?

The rhinitis it is, by definition, an inflammation of the lining of the nostrils. It is basically divided into allergic and non-allergic or vasomotor. Allergic rhinitis can frequently be associated with conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma, and can occur at any age, although it is more common in young people. Some people are also allergic to pollen with cross-reactivity to plant foods, usually certain fruits.

The allergy is hereditary. “If a parent is allergic, the probability of having an allergy is 25%. If they are both, it would be 50%”, indicates the specialist in allergology of Corachan Clinicthe doctor Caesar Alias ​​Tuduri. 30% of the general population is allergic. At certain times or times of the year, they often coexist with sneezing (more than 4 in a row), itching, rhinorrhea (nasal congestion) and nasal obstruction, usually rocking, i.e. alternating the two nostrils.

They are all symptom which also accompany a cold, but in the case of a cold the patient is usually also generally unwell, and may have fever and thicker mucus. The cold, in addition, usually lasts between 5 and 7 days.

When allergic rhinitis is suspected, a specific test, called a prick, should be performed. It consists of putting a drop of the allergen on the skin and then making a small injection with a lancet. It is supplemented by in vitro tests to determine the intensity of the sensitization and its specificity by determining the molecular allergens, that is to say by determining whether a specific component is found in the blood.


Regarding the treatment of allergic rhinitis, environmental control or avoidance is carried out, that is, avoiding the presence of the element that causes the allergy or the environments where it is concentrated.

Symptoms are treated with antihistaminesnasal corticosteroids, and allergen extract-specific immunotherapy (commonly referred to as “allergy vaccines”), which consists of “the administration of an extract of the disease-causing allergen, usually given in doses gradually increasing and at regular time intervals, in order to induce the tolerance necessary to control the allergic response”, explains Dr. Alías. This is considered the only treatment capable of modifying the natural course of the allergic disease.

The allergist is the specialist who prescribes the treatment with the guidelines that the allergic patient will follow. “Prescribed drugs (antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids and immunotherapy), in the correct doses, have no side effects, and third-generation antihistamines hardly have a sedative effect,” explains César Alías. To date, there is no scientific proof of any natural method that can improve allergic rhinitis, whether or not accompanied by pharmacological treatment.

But, does allergic rhinitis heal after treatment, or does it remain latent and what the treatment attenuates or eliminates are simply the symptoms? As explained by the allergist Corachan Clinic“with symptomatic treatment, the symptoms are controlled. And, on the other hand, specific immunotherapy acts on the background of the problem, decreasing the patient’s sensitivity”.

In case of allergic rhinitis to pollens (produced by pollens of trees, grasses or weeds), it will repeat itself annually at the time of the pollen which affects it (for example the pollen of cypress, in February and March). If the guidelines established by the allergist are correct and followed, it may not be necessary to go to the doctor every time in the event of a recurrence.

The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid contact with environments where the substance causing the allergy is found. Spontaneously does not disappear. An allergic patient, without treatment, over the years can develop more sensitizations and progress to asthma. And as we have already seen, immunotherapy is the only treatment capable of modifying the natural evolution of the disease, towards bronchial asthma and other sensitizations.

A growing problem

Epidemiological studies indicate that the prevalence of allergies is increasing and is expected to reach 50% of the population in a few years, whereas currently it affects 30%. The most common allergy in coastal regions, with high humidity and average temperature, is dust mites. It is followed by pollen from parietaria, grasses and trees such as cypresses, olive trees and banana trees. Also note that of the alternaria fungus and those of animals, such as cats, dogs, horses, hamsters or guinea pigs.

Allergies are linked to the theory of hygiene, which states that the more hygiene there is, the less infections there are, but the more allergies there are. It is also associated with diesel particles, which, for example, make cypress pollen from Madrid or Barcelona more allergenic than that from a cemetery in a city far from these capitals.

And, regarding the periods in which the effects of allergies are not suffered, Dr. Alías suggests that, except in the case of an allergy to a domestic animal, a cat for example, avoid the places where they are, “There is no There is no diet or physical activity to prevent allergies Yes, places with a high concentration of dust mites should be avoided (spaces with carpets, stuffed animals, etc.), if they are the source of the allergy.

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