Allergies and colds may have similar symptoms but require different treatment

With allergy season rapidly approaching, seasonal allergies, otherwise known as allergic rhinitis, are often confused with signs and symptoms of the common cold.

Depending on the geographical area one resides in and how often one experiences symptoms, there are typically three pollen seasons per year. Spring is when the trees pollinate, summer is when the grasses release allergens and fall is when many people suffer allergy symptoms from weeds, known as hay fever. Those suffering symptoms in any one of these seasons are said to have allergic rhinitis. If one experiences year-round symptoms, it is known as perennial allergic rhinitis.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is an activation in the production of histamines from one’s immune system in response to airborne allergens, usually from the trees, grasses and weeds that normally would not cause a problem from day to day.

The most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are mostly annoying to the individual rather than actually harmful or contagious. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include an itchy nose, sneezing, congestion, stuffy nose, runny nose and watery eyes. These symptoms can often be confused with symptoms of the common cold, but should not be treated with cold medications.

Although there is no cure for seasonal allergies, there are over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription options to help manage these seasonal symptoms.

The most common side effects of one treatment option, antihistamines, are drowsiness and headaches for some. Antihistamines that have been around for many years are known as first-generation antihistamines and tend to have more drowsiness associated with their use. For example, diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine have more sedation associated with them than new OTC antihistamines. First-generation antihistamines are often sedating enough to put one at risk for injury when operating machinery or vehicles, as well as incidents around the home, especially in the elderly.

It can often be confusing sorting out which allergy medication to choose with all the options available.


 Common OTC tablet options include:


  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec®)
  • Loratadine (Claritin®)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra®)
  • Levocetirizine (Xyzal®)


Common corticosteroid nasal sprays include:


  • Triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort®)
  • Fluticasone (Flonase®)

Your Sam’s Club Pharmacist has a wealth of knowledge and would be happy to assist in answering your questions and helping you select the best OTC option for your symptoms and needs.

There are also prescription options as well as allergy injections for more severe symptoms. Your pharmacist can help you understand all of your options for treating allergic rhinitis.