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Sinus Related Articles > Cold and Allergy Symptoms Are Often Confusing

Cold and Allergy Symptoms Are Often Confusing

Very often cold symptoms may be very similar to allergy symptoms. In such cases it is very difficult to choose the right medication.

Viruses cause colds and allergens such as pollen and dust mites trigger allergies, but they share similar symptoms.

Because of such confusion great many ranges of over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and preparations combining the two are available to relieve the discomfort of allergies or the common cold. Some preparations have other active ingredients, such as cough suppressants and expectorants.

Choosing the right medication

"In general, antihistamines work better for allergies while decongestants are more effective for colds," advises Richard Johnson, M.D., family medicine physician at UCLA Medical Group-Pacific Palisades.

Over-the-counter antihistamines help stop itchy eyes, dry nasal secretions and reduce sneezing, but common side effects often include drowsiness and dizziness, and may cause urinary retention in men, particularly in the elderly.

The latest prescription allergy medications which have much fewer side effects are now available over-the-counter.

Non-prescription nasal decongestions can relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, but must be used sparingly or else dependence can develop, resulting in severe nasal congestion when the sprays are stopped.

Decongestants for colds relieve sinus congestion and nose stuffiness by constricting the nose's blood vessels, thereby reducing mucous production. In some people, oral decongestants can cause insomnia, nervousness, rapid heartbeats and increased blood pressure.

"Until recently, phenylpropanolamine (PPA) was a common decongestant in many preparations. However, in response to research revealing that PPA may increase the incidence of stroke, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered drug manufacturers to remove it from their formulations. Many companies have already complied with the FDA order, but it is wise to double check your medication's ingredient list to make sure," Dr. Johnson suggests.

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