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Allergy, Virus or Cold? Do you know the difference?

















For those who read my blog and my patients who see me in person, they know I love to talk and educate. However, I’ve been silent for a while now because ‘tis the season for all sorts of havoc to occur and I ended up with a severe upper respiratory infection with loss of my voice, forcing me to slow down and rest (which I HATE-Doctors truly make the most difficult patients!), but also allowed me to reflect on how my patients may be feeling these past and coming months and how my personal experience with illness compounded with seasonal allergies and asthma might help educate you. 'Tis the season after al!


We should probably start with a basic understanding of the differences between seasonal allergies, viral illnesses and sinus inflammation.


FYI, No matter the season, allergies, viral illnesses and sinus issues can affect individuals at any time of year. While these conditions may share some similarities, It's important to recognize the differences between these conditions, as their triggers and treatments vary greatly. In this article, we'll provide an overview of seasonal allergies, viral colds, and sinusitis, outlining the tell-tale signs of each and offering up tips for managing them.


Seasonal Allergies:


Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are caused by an overly sensitive immune system response to pollen, mold and other airborne substances like pet dander, grasses, trees and dust.

Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include sneezing, runny nose, nasal or sinus congestion, itchy and watery eyes (generally involving both eyes), and itchy or scratchy throat. On occasion, the lungs can be involved when triggered causing difficulty breathing or asthma. These symptoms typically occur during certain times of the year when these allergens are present, such as spring for pollen allergies or fall for mold allergies.

Seasonal allergies are not contagious. Instead, they are caused by the body's immune system overreacting to an allergen. Management or treatment options for seasonal allergies may include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays or specific anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce allergy-induced symptoms. While non-specific treatment can help keep symptoms at bay, often specific testing may be involved to figure out the allergen causing the symptoms to ensure avoidance of the substance when possible. Seasonal or Environmental allergies can often be improved with weekly injection or sublingual immunotherapy treatments, which allows your body to recognize the allergen as less and less foreign overtime, thus reducing symptoms and the need for medications. Misra Wellness proudly offers immunotherapy for those suffering from seasonal allergies and/or asthma


Viral Illnesses:


Viral illnesses, such as the common cold or the Flu (amongst other viral illnesses), are caused by a virus that infects the body. These illnesses are contagious and can be spread from person to person through close contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of viral illnesses can include cough, fever, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue.

Unlike seasonal allergies, viral illnesses are not triggered by allergens and do not occur during specific times of the year. Instead, they can occur at any time and are often more prevalent during colder months when people spend more time indoors when people are in closer proximity to one another and when mucus generation by noses and lungs is generally thicker. Certain viruses also preferentially prefer to replicate and spread in cooler weather. Treatment options for viral illnesses vary widely according to symptoms and may include over-the-counter pain or fever relievers, decongestants, and cough expectorants or suppressants. In some cases, antiviral medications may be prescribed to help fight the infection. It is important to note that antibiotics are not effective against viruses as they specifically target bacteria, but on occasion a virus and bacteria can co-exist so it is important to let your primary care doctor know if you are feeling worse over time and not better. With a viral cold, rest, hydration, proper nutrition and supplementation can make a world of difference with how quickly you get better.

Natural remedies are also available to help with viral illnesses. Some of these include inhaling steam, drinking hot liquids like tea with honey or lemon and using a neti-pot or saline irrigation to flush the nasal passages. Eating foods high in Vitamin C, drinking tea with honey, ginger or lemon, eating pineapple, papaya or foods rich in fiber and antioxidants can also boost your immune system and help you break up mucus, helping you fight off the virus faster.


Sinus Issues:


Sinus issues, such as sinusitis, occur when the sinuses become inflamed and swollen. This can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, allergies, or other irritants. Common symptoms of sinus issues include congestion, headache, facial pain, and pressure in the sinuses. Other symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, change in taste or smell, fatigue or bad breath.


Sinus issues can be caused by both viral illnesses and seasonal allergies, making it important to distinguish between the two. If symptoms persist for more than a week or are accompanied by a fever or fluid discharge from the eyes, nose or ears, it is more likely that the cause is a viral or bacterial infection, which may require antibiotics. However, if symptoms are primarily related to allergies, treatment options may include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. Depending on the cause of the sinus issues, imaging and systemic medications may be required. If sinus symptoms do not improve or increase in frequency, duration, or symptoms you may require a referral to a surgical specialist.


While the causes of seasonal allergies, viral illnesses, and sinus issues differ, there are some strategies that can help manage symptoms for all three conditions:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin mucus and ease congestion.

  • Use a humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can help relieve dryness in the sinuses and throat.

  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest can help the body fight infections or inflammation and reduce fatigue. Getting rest includes listening to your body and your body’s needs.

  • Avoid triggers: For seasonal allergies, avoiding exposure to allergens such as pollen or mold can help reduce symptoms. For viral illnesses, avoiding close contact with sick individuals and washing hands frequently can help prevent the spread of illness.

  • Over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers can help manage symptoms for all three conditions. If over the counter medications do not work, talk to a physician like Dr. Misra and get assessed as you may require prescription medication or additional treatments to help you start feeling better.

It is important to note that everyone is different.


Some individuals may experience symptoms that overlap with multiple conditions, making it difficult to determine the underlying cause. In these cases, it is generally important to consult with a physician to determine the best course of action regarding appropriate treatment.

Some individuals may experience more severe symptoms that require medical attention. For example, individuals with asthma may experience exacerbations of their condition during allergy season, which can be life-threatening if left untreated and may require hospitalization or worse. Similarly, individuals with compromised immune systems may be at greater risk for complications from viral illnesses.


In summary, seasonal allergies, viral illnesses, and sinus issues are all common health problems that can cause similar symptoms. Understanding the underlying cause of these symptoms is key to determining the appropriate treatment. By taking steps to manage symptoms and seeking medical attention by your primary care physician, you can help to minimize the impact of these diseases on your health and well-being.


Stay Safe & Stay Healthy (either way make an appointment and lets check things out) !!


Signed, Dr. Misra

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