970 Parchment Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI  (616) 949-4840 Patient Portal Make a Payment Request an Appointment

Grand Rapids Allergy


Cold or Allergy: The Eternal Question

Posted on January 26, 2017

Wintertime, for many people, signifies holiday fun, seasonal activities, and the comfort of curling up on the couch with a hot drink to watch the falling snow outside. For others, it means hours of shoveling, school closures, and that dreaded “yearly cold.”... but is that cold actually a cold, or an allergy in disguise? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your “cold” always seem to come around the same time of year?
  • Do you take preventative measures (avoiding contact with known cold sufferers, taking vitamins, getting lots of rest, etc.) and yet you still seem to catch the bug?    
  • Do your symptoms last most of the season?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, it might be worth checking into the possibility that you actually have allergies. Allergies are not simply the Hollywood trope of a cat scampering into the room and someone breaking into a sneezing fit. In fact, colds and allergies share many similar symptoms, such as:

  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Sneezing/coughing/wheezing
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Sinus pressure
  • Watery/itchy eyes
  • Sleepless nights
  • Focus issues

To better determine if your symptoms are caused by allergies, experts have several over-the-counter options that can bring relief and some answers.


You’re probably thinking what we all thought upon first hearing this term. “Irrigation is used in farming, how does this apply to my nose?” Nasal saline irrigation is a helpful method of clearing mucus and settling nasal cavity inflammation caused by allergies and infections; it is recommended for everyone suffering from cold-like symptoms as it also provides moisture for the nasal cavity, which, believe it or not, your sinuses need in times like these. For chronic sufferers, a trial of one month is suggested; for the first week, try irrigating daily, then 3-4 times a week for the rest of the month.

Using saline (or a mixture of non-iodized salt and warm, distilled water), nasal irrigation is force-flushing your nasal cavity by injecting the solution into one nostril and letting it flow out the other.

“Um, WHAT?!”

Don’t worry! It is not painful and many people have reported excellent results in lessening their nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and coughing. This drains out that mucus that causes most of these symptoms. Between the mild solution and the involuntary reflexes of your soft palette during the process, there is very little to worry about.

The supplies for nasal irrigation can be found at any pharmacy. This will consist of mainly a tool with which to inject the solution, such as a syringe or neti pot, and the solution itself (or the non-iodized salt to mix with distilled water, for a more cost effective alternative).

Don’t turn your nose up at it until you give it a try!


These products are common knowledge amongst most chronic sufferers and are available at any pharmacy. If your cold-like symptoms are relentless and the nasal irrigation is not enough, add this on to that ritual for a month trial and monitor your results.

If these steps for clearing your sinuses also clear up most of your symptoms, that is a good indication that your problem is not an infection, but an allergy. Even better news? You will now know how to easily combat it the next time it shows up. If further treatment is needed, our list of suggestions continues.


This is a dreaded suggestion: the culprit could be in your house, your car, or your favorite hangout. There are several ways to try and pinpoint the cause of your woes. Keep the windows of your house closed, shut pets out of your bedroom, or avoid other potential allergy triggers for a trial period to see if your symptoms are at all relieved.

If you believe your symptoms are allergy-related and you would like help finding the cause, talk to an allergy professional and see if allergy testing is a viable solution.


You remember those childhood days of Mom tucking you into bed with soothing vapor rubs and menthol gels? There is a reason she did that! As you grow older, you may find that an Afrin-type nasal spray can offer relief. These sprays are not recommended for those under the age of 6, though, and are only to be used for short periods of time, as continuous use over a several day period can cause addiction. If you are suffering from a sinus infection, Afrin may be used safely every 2-3 days, along with a steroid nasal spray. Give those a try for 3-5 days to see if your headache or sinus pressure lessens.


We are all hesitant to try medications due to all of the side effects (one of the more prolific being drowsiness, and who has time for that?), and this is why the previous steps are recommended first. Unfortunately, though, sometimes we have to bring in the bigger guns to fight the good fight. Try this for a month along with the previous suggestions.

If you would like further information, or an expert to talk to about your symptoms, check out the helpful resources or insightful professionals at grandrapidsallergy.com. Find the source of your suffering, because allergies are nothing to sneeze at!

All information, content, and material in this email is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

Grand Rapids Allergy has served the west Michigan area for over 40 years. We’re working to treat allergies at the root level with personalized treatment plans based on your unique allergy profile.

Learn how we work