Every person experiences the runny nose, watery eyes, difficulty in breathing, and feeling of ill health at least once in your life. Children sometimes welcome it as it is a way to skip school, and adults usually hate it because it puts a wrinkle in their best laid plans. But what is it that limits us to our beds with hot fluids to be taken constantly. This may either be a cold or an allergy causing rhinitis, thus allergic rhinitis. A cold is usually caused by a virus, out of the thousands of usual suspects, and our immune system attacks the virus, and it results in the symptoms of cold. Allergic rhinitis is the result of our own immune system becoming highly sensitive, and overactive against a non contagious, non infective particle, causing the release of chemicals from the body resulting in swelling of the air passages, irritation on the mucosal surfaces etc.
The symptoms usually start after a couple of days of exposure to the infective organism. The cold, which last for less than 1-2 weeks, are associated with, cough (dry to wet), aches and pains, runny nose ( at first watery then becoming thicker and purulent), mild fever, sore throat, and on occasion with itchy eyes.
Here, the symptoms start almost from the time the person gets exposed to the particles causing the allergic reaction. In allergic rhinitis, the symptoms last for over one month, and is associated with early morning runny nose (watery), itchy, and watery eyes in the absence of fever and fatigue, but aching of the body on occasions. A person with recurrent allergic rhinitis will get an allergic crease on the nose. That is a horizontal black furrow that develops on the middle of the skin covering the nasal cartilage, due to recurrent rubbing of that area upwards.
What is the difference between Cold and Allergy Symptoms?
In comparison, both types are presenting with runny noses and aches in the body, and on occasion watery and itchy eyes. These two can be differentiated by the time lag present in the exposure and the onset of symptoms in a person with cold, and the lack of time lag in allergic rhinitis. A cold rarely passes 1 weeks duration, whereas allergic rhinitis may continue for months, and may have a cyclical periodicity. A cold may present with a fever, but an allergy doesn’t. In cold, the rhinorrhea may transform from a watery transparent to a thick purulent nature, whereas in allergic rhinitis stays watery. The watery itchy, red eyes are more common in allergies. The body aches are more common in the cold afflicted individual. Chronic allergic rhinitis can present as an allergic crease on the nose.
Although the aetiology and pathology are involved, cold and allergy are different; the basic symptoms can be indistinguishable from each other. But the ultimate management is not much different as antibiotics are prescribed only in non resolving cold or suspected secondary bacterial infections.