You  might have noticed a layer of green over all of Birmingham.  We’ve had a few days of warm weather, and that was enough to get everything blooming.  I have had more  than a few patients tell me that their allergies are worse in Bham than anywhere else.  You can thank the bowl that we sit in (also known as Jones Valley-a little Bham trivia bonus) for that bit of loveliness.
A common question is how to tell between allergic rhinitis and upper respiratory infections.  Both are really common at urgent care visits this time of year, and sometimes its useful to get an accurate diagnosis.

Allergic Rhinitis
Upper Respiratory Infection
Sneezing, rhinorrhea, nasal congestion and itching
Eye symptoms
No fever
Sore throat , nasal obstruction, rhinorrhea, sneezing
Fever, myalgias (particularly with influenza)
Everything at once, during the right time of year
Perennial allergies can go on year round (indoor allergens)
Usually sore throat first, then nasal sx, then cough
Pale, bluish mucosa (mouth and nose)
Red, swollen nasal mucosa and pharyngeal erythema
Differential diagnosis
Vasomotor rhinitis
Rhinitis medicamentosa
Pertussis: prolonged severe coughing >2 weeks, not much other sx.
Influenza: high fever, myalgias
Associated Sx/ Prognosis
20-40% with asthma
Eventual acute sinusitis
Acute sinusitis: facial pain, purulent mucus

Rhinitis treatment is often similar to URI treatment, but there is some more data that treatments are beneficial with allergic rhinitis. Mainstay is nasal steroids and antihistamine.   Dr. Huddle would recommend chlorpheneramine (a first generation “sedating” antihistamine) over the second generation antihistamines. However, this is quite sedating, and may have more anticholinergic side effects. Be careful with your elderly patients, and particularly those prone to urinary retention.  Also consider decongestants- pseudoephedrine works better and is worth standing in line at the pharmacy window. 

Evidence based URI treatment is really non-existent. Nasal steroids and antihistamines are probably  less helpful.  Nasal ipatropium or nasal cromolyn may be useful, but are pricey.  I tend to tell people to get one of the myriad combo cold/sinus medicines in the drug store- they want a decongestant, something for aches/fever, and a cough suppressant or expectorant. Again, waiting in line for pseudoephedrine is worth it, particularly if they have a lot of sinus symptoms.

Here’s a link to the Annals of Internal Medicine In the Clinic article on allergic rhinitis


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