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Allergy - itchy cold and dust sneezing: Sometimes sneezing is not a sign of a cold

Itchy cold and sneezing dust: Sometimes sneezing is not a sign of a cold

Nose congestion and sneezing attacks in winter? A cold! However, sneezing is sometimes not a sign of a cold, but a reaction to irritants. How does this happen?

Nose congestion and sneezing attacks in winter? No wonder, again a typical cold, you think immediately. Misconception: Sometimes it's not viruses to blame, it's an allergy.

But how do you know which of the two is the trigger? A cold, says Jürgen Grabbe, specialist doctor and head of allergology at Aarau Cantonal Hospital, is usually recognizable: "Colds are only temporary and should subside after 14 days." After a few days, the secretion from the nose generally becomes yellowish or purulent. "Previous sore throats, a general feeling of flu and a cough with secretions are also typical." All of these symptoms actually indicate a full blown cold.

Permanently blocked nose: allergy

An allergy, on the other hand, shows that the nose is constantly blocked without any further signs of inflammation. "Even if someone is plagued by sneezing attacks especially in the house - especially in the bedroom - when the secretion is watery and instead of coughing up secretions a dry, irritating cough occurs, an allergy should be considered," says Grabbe. He then primarily suspects an overreaction to house dust mites or fur-bearing pets such as cats, dogs or rodents.

"Sometimes the suspicion of an allergy trigger comes naturally to itself: for example, when the complaints increase significantly after contact with a pet," says the specialist. Even if acute discomfort occurs when shaking the bed, he immediately considers a house dust mite allergy. "In many cases, however, an allergy test is required to confirm the suspected allergy trigger or to identify it at all." Inside the house, fur-bearing pets and house dust mites are clearly the most common allergens: According to Jürgen Grabbe, only a small proportion of those affected have problems with mold and plants in the home. "However, fragrance lamps, incense candles or dusty Christmas decorations can trigger allergy-like complaints in the nose and lungs." However, this is almost always a so-called unspecific irritation of the mucous membranes. "In sensitive people, this can also be triggered by other things such as a change of position, hot drinks or spicy dishes."

If you have a hypersensitive nose, cold winter air can cause sneezing fits and make your nose run. “That is by no means a rare occurrence,” says Grabbe. That does not indicate a cold. "On the contrary, if such a heat attack quickly stops and occurs again the next time you are in the cold, it clearly speaks for such a mechanism."

A special type of allergy that can mainly occur in winter is an overreaction to flu drugs: "These often contain aspirin or similar anti-inflammatory and fever-lowering agents," explains allergist Grabbe. "These can lead to intolerance reactions such as nettle rash, swelling of the mucous membrane or asthma attacks, especially if they are taken as part of a viral infection."

Nuts and spices: irritant factor

Even the Christmas bakery can be a problem for some: Hazelnuts and peanuts can cause food allergies, especially in people who are allergic to birch pollen, and some of them still react to these nuts after baking. "In Christmas biscuits, it is seldom the spices such as anise or coriander that cause problems for individual allergy sufferers," says Grabbe. He initially treats the various forms of allergy according to the symptoms: "So-called antihistamines are used, mostly in tablet form, anti-allergic eye drops, cortisone-containing nasal sprays and, in the case of asthmatic symptoms, various inhalation medications." The same drugs are also used for non-allergic hypersensitivity of the nasal or bronchial mucosa.

Living allergy-free: difficult

Jürgen Grabbe cannot guarantee an allergy-free winter time, no matter how careful you are. The recommendations of the allergist are based on the specific allergy of the individual patient. "First of all, we try to avoid or eliminate the relevant allergy trigger." For house dust mite allergies, for example, there are special duvet covers that help reduce the exposure to mite allergens in the bedroom.

As soon as the Christmas season is over, the tiresome pollen season starts again for many: Hazel and alder usually begin to bloom in the first weeks of February. However, this changes from year to year depending on the weather, and Jürgen Grabbe has found that those affected often feel the first complaints as early as January.

Sometimes, however, neither pollen nor animal hair can help: When viruses are still at work and sneezing and runny nose simply indicate a nasty winter cold.