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Feb 12, 2010 12:44 PM by sleonard

Living Right Help Line Questions

1. What's the difference between Colds and Allergies?
Colds: A cold is a virus that gets into your body and your immune system attacks. Some of the effects of this immune response are the classic symptoms of a cold, such as congestion and coughing. The germs that cause colds are contagious. You can pick them up when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. After a couple of weeks, at the most, your immune system fights off the virus and you stop having symptoms.
Allergies: Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system. Your body mistakes harmless substances like mold or pollen for germs and attack them by causing swelling in your nasal passages, a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Your body releases chemicals such as histamine, just as it does when fighting a cold. This Allergies are not contagious, although some people may inherit a tendency to develop them.


2. What are the signs and symptoms of a sinus infection?
A sinus infection is the inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. Normally, your sinuses are filled with air. When the sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria can grow there and cause infection. This infection is sinusitis.
Symptoms of a sinus infection include the following:
• Thick, yellow, foul-smelling nasal discharge
• Pressure or pain around the face and eyes
• Headache (generally in the forehead area)
• Nasal obstruction
• Congestion
• Post-nasal drip
• A cold that won't go away
• Fever or cough that may or may not be present
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be seen with a cold. But if the pain around your face and eyes and the thick nasal discharge continue for more than a week, you may have sinusitis.


3. How to know when to take Antihistamines or Decongestants?
Drugs in these categories are useful for relief of symptoms from allergies, upper respiratory infections (i.e., sinusitis, "colds," flu) and vasomotor rhinitis (a chronic stuffy nose caused by such unrelated conditions as emotional stress, thyroid disease, pregnancy and others). These drugs do not cure the allergies, infections, etc.; they only relieve the symptoms, thereby making the patient more comfortable.
Antihistamines
Histamine is an important body chemical that is responsible for the congestion, sneezing and runny nose that a patient suffers with an allergic attack or an infection. Antihistamine drugs block the action of histamine, therefore reducing the allergy symptoms. For the best result, antihistamines should be taken before allergic symptoms get well established.
The most annoying side effect that antihistamines produce is drowsiness. That may be desirable when taken at bedtime, but it is a nuisance to many people who need to use antihistamines in the daytime. To some people, it is even hazardous. These drugs are not recommended for daytime use for people who may be driving an automobile or operating equipment that could be dangerous. The first few doses cause the most sleepiness; subsequent doses are usually less troublesome.
Typical antihistamines include Benadryl®, Chlor-Trimeton®*, Dimetane®*, Hismanal®, Nolahist®*, PBZ®, Polaromine®, Seldane®, Tavist®, and Teldrin®*.
Decongestants
Congestion in the nose, sinuses and chest is due to swollen, expanded or dilated blood vessels in the membranes of the nose and air passages. These membranes have an abundant supply of blood vessels with a great capacity for expansion (swelling and congestion). Histamine stimulates these blood vessels to expand as described previously.
Decongestants, on the other hand, cause constriction or tightening of the blood vessels in those membranes, which then forces much of the blood out of the membranes so that they shrink and the air passages open up again.
Decongestants are chemically related to adrenaline, the natural decongestant, which is also a type of stimulant. Therefore, the side effect of decongestants is a jittery or nervous feeling. They can cause difficulty in going to sleep, and they can elevate blood pressure and pulse rate. Decongestants should not be used by a patient who has an irregular head rhythm (pulse), high blood pressure or heart disease. They also should not be used by a patient who has glaucoma. Some patients taking decongestants experience difficulty with urination. Furthermore, decongestants are often used as ingredients in diet pills. Therefore to avoid excessively stimulating effects, patients taking such diet pills should not take decongestants also, and vice versa.
Typical decongestants are phenylephrine (NeoSynephrine®*), phenylpropanolamine (Entex®*, Propagest®), and pseudoephedrine (Novafed®*, Sudafed®*).


4. What kind of allergies can be treated with allergy shots?
Allergy shots work well for pollen allergies (also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever), eye allergies, bee-sting allergies and some drug allergies. In some people, allergy shots can improve asthma symptoms.


5. How do allergy shots work?
Usually people get allergy shots after they have tried other treatments that haven't worked. Other treatments include avoiding allergens and taking medicine, such as an antihistamine.
Allergy shots may provide long-term relief of symptoms. Consider the following when making your decision:
• Allergy shots will probably help you. They are effective for most people and can reduce symptoms if you are allergic to pollens, animal dander, dust mites, mold, or cockroaches. Allergy shots may prevent children with allergic rhinitis from getting asthma.
• You need to take allergy shots for 3 to 5 years. You cannot be sure how long the shots will be effective after you stop getting them. For allergies to some grasses, shots have been effective for 3 or 4 years.
• Allergy shots work best when you are allergic to just a few allergens that are difficult to avoid.


This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. KATC and Lourdes disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. This information was provided to help you make better health decisions.

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