What are allergies?

  • An allergy is a reaction of the body’s immune system to a substance that is usually harmless; one that does not bother most people.
  • Frequently the people who have allergies are sensitive to more than one substance.
  • Some people’s allergies will trigger episodes of asthma
  • Substances that are frequent causes of allergic reactions include:
    • Pollens
    • Dust
    • Mold
    • Foods
    • Latex
    • Insects
    • Medicines
    • Chemicals
    • Paints
    • Carpeting
    • Plastics
    • Perfumes
    • Cigarette smoke

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or clogged nose
  • Coughing
  • Post Nasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose and/or throat
  • Watery eyes
  • “Allergic Pink Eye”
  • Dark circles under your eyes


  • Some people are able to deduce what substance triggers a response. Other times it is more difficult to figure out.
  • There is a blood test that is done in some cases. This is usually done in the Allergist’s office.
  • The most sensitive test involves skin testing. This is always done by an Allergist’s office.


  • If it is possible to avoid the substance, such as cigarette smoke, it is most helpful to do so.
  • There are medicines that can help
    • Antihistamines
    • These can be bought over the counter or you can get them from cold clinic.
      • Benedryl is frequently used, but often causes severe drowsiness.
      • Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec are available in the brand name form or generic and does not cause the drowsiness associated with Benedryl.
      • Other over the counter antihistamines include medicines such as Dimetapp and Chlo-Trimeton.
      • There are many combination drugs that are available, such as Tylenol Cold and Allergy that may be helpful.
  • Nasal Steroids, such as Flonase or Nasonex, can be prescribed or bought over the counter.
  • Chromolyn is a medicine that comes in an over the counter nasal spray. The brand name for this is NasalCrom.
  • Decongestants
    • Decongestants can help relieve the swelling and congestion in the nasal and sinus passages. They also decrease excess secretions.
    • Decongestants are frequently found in combination medicines, including Nyquil and Tylenol Cold and Allergy.
    • These can be purchased separately or in combinations over the counter.


  • Untreated allergies may resolve on their own. In some cases, they may cause other problems such as
    • Sinus infections
    • Asthma

Is it a cold or allergies?

Symptoms Cold Allergies
Cough Common Sometimes
General aches, pains Mild Never
Fatigue, weakness Usually Usually
Itchy eyes Rare Common
Sneezing Usually Usually
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Fever Common Never
Stuffy nose Common Common
Runny nose Common Common
Duration 3-14 days Weeks