Dubai - UAE health advisory: Your 'flu' might actually be an allergy

Dubai - UAE health advisory: Your 'flu' might actually be an allergy
Dubai - UAE health advisory: Your 'flu' might actually be an allergy

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - With a dip in temperatures, winter cold air can irritate the respiratory tract and cause spasms.

Are you experiencing a sore throat, stuffy nose and sneezing bouts? Blame it on the changing weather which doctors say is a common allergy trigger.

Dr Noordin Wadhvaniya, respiratory medicine specialist at the Canadian Specialist Hospital, said changing weather always comes with an onset of respiratory allergies and asthma attacks. "In winter, as the time spent indoors increases, our exposure to indoor allergens also increases. For example, AC vents at homes, offices and cars can cause allergies and infections if not cleaned from time to time. AC vents may contain several allergens including dust, mold, mites, pet dander, etc that can cause allergies in various forms including asthma, runny nose, hives or swelling. With a dip in temperatures, winter cold air can irritate the respiratory tract and cause spasms. Also, cold and flu infections can make symptoms worse."

The common winter allergies, he said include asthma, rhinitis, urticaria and angioedema and are caused by both indoor and outdoor allergens including dust, sand, pollen, dust mites, pet dander, etc. "Many people confuse cold symptoms and allergies. You must remember allergies are not associated with body pain, fever and sore throat but include symptoms like itching, watering/itching of eyes," he added.

Dr Sreekumar Sreedharan, internal medicine specialist at the Aster Clinic Karama, said the difference between regular cold and flu and allergies is the duration of the symptoms. "A cold and flu infection typically lasts no longer than seven to 10 days. Common winter allergies can go on for weeks to months. If your symptoms last longer than a week, it's better to see a doctor."

Some of the most common indoor allergens that can trigger your winter allergies include airborne dust particles, dust mites, pet dander (skin flakes that carry proteins), mold, cockroach droppings, he added.

The best treatment for allergies, Dr Wadhvaniya said is prevention or sanitising your environment against the allergen. "Most allergies can be treated symptomatically using inhalers for asthma, nose sprays for rhinitis, OTC antihistamines, etc. Although there are other kinds of drastic treatments such as immunotherapy but are only considered in serious cases.

He, however, strongly advised people that before any treatment, one must get a diagnosis from their doctor rather than going by the Internet or self-diagnosing and medicating. "It is important to diagnose if the symptoms are due to allergy or an infection. The doctor needs to evaluate the condition in its totality before arriving at any conclusions," Dr Wadhvaniya said.

Steps you can take to keep allergies away

> Vacuum your home regularly

> Instead of using a feather duster use a damp cloth and an organic cleaner

> If you suspect the vents harbour mould or insects or are clogged, you may need to consider professional air duct cleaning

> Use an indoor air purifier

> Maintain indoor temperatures under 21°C and relative humidity in your home below 50% to make it difficult for dust mites and other microorganisms to thrive

> Use a face mask when outdoors

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