Winter time is cold time: Everywhere you see people with a cough and runny nose. But not always there is a flu infection behind the complaints. "It often happens that a stuffy nose, difficulty breathing or coughing in the winter months are considered symptoms of a cold, even though an allergy is actually the cause, " says Professor. Ludger Klimek, from the Doctors Association of German Allergologists (ÄDA). The Wiesbaden ENT specialist and allergist reports that in the winter months every week he exposes several patients with alleged flu as an allergic person.
Allergy or cold?
Eleven-year-old Felix had been suffering from a cold, cough, headache and heavy mucus for six weeks when he visited the practice of the specialist, Professor Ludger Klimek, accompanied by his mother. The family doctor had previously prescribed three different antibiotics, but all did not help. Also expectorant, antitussive drugs and homoeopathic drugs Felix gave only a brief relief. The boy was frustrated because absenteeism at school and his poor condition endangered the grades.
"The mother told me that Felix goes through a lengthy 'cold' every year at this time of year, " says Klimek. "The regular occurrence of the same symptoms at certain times of the year or in certain situations is important for the allergologically trained specialist." Klimek carried out an allergy test at Felix and noted as the cause of the regularly recurring complaints a fierce allergy to dust mites and cat hair. "Particularly the mite allergy in the fall, especially at the beginning of the heating season, causes symptoms such as coughing and runny nose, which can easily be confused with a flu infection, " explains Klimek.
Allergies can express themselves differently and have very different causes. For example, bee pollen, house dust mites, animal hair and mold can cause allergic rhinitis and itchy eyes (hay fever) in sensitive people. But it can also come to asthma with coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, when the bronchial mucosa is allergic. In allergic asthma, the airways are narrowed by an allergic inflammation, because the bronchial mucous membrane swells, it forms tough mucus and the airway muscles cramps.
Symptoms of respiratory allergies and influenza-like infections are similar
The symptoms of respiratory allergies can easily be mistaken for a flu infection. Common colds, sneezing, reddened eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing and fatigue often occur in both diseases. "Influenza is often associated with fever, but allergy often causes itching, such as itching, nose, or eyes, and fever rarely occurs, " says Professor Klimek. Signs of an allergy are also permanent or recurrent complaints in certain situations or at certain times.
Cause allergy therapy helps in the long term
If in doubt, sufferers should consult a specialist in the treatment of allergies ear, nose and throat doctor. Even from an exact survey of the patient, the doctor receives information about whether an allergy or an infection is present. Further information is provided by the physical examination and laboratory tests. For flu-like infections or a non-allergic cold, the specialist often diagnoses purulent secretions and swollen lymphoid tissue. Allergies can be detected with a skin test. In addition, found in a blood test increasingly typical of allergies immunoglobulin-E (IgE) antibodies.
The eleven-year-old Felix is now receiving a specific immunotherapy (SIT) with standardized mite allergens, so that next year he will probably not have weeks off at school due to his allergic "flu". With a SIT, the cause of the allergy can be treated. The therapy uses the hypersensitive immune system of allergy sufferers in the long term to the allergy triggers. As a result, long-term discomfort is reduced or completely eliminated. In addition, immunotherapy can significantly reduce the risk of developing asthma.