Do I have a cold or an allergy?

It’s a question I’ve often asked when a runny nose and sneezing in the spring match up with tree pollen


It’s a question I’ve often asked when a runny nose and sneezing in the spring match up with tree pollen time, or when I have the sniffles in early fall when ragweed is at its peak.

So when the folks at Reactine’which produces anti-allergy medications’promoted a mobile allergy screening clinic this week, I was curious to find out if, or to what, I would react. Best of all, a leading allergist would be on hand to interpret the test results.

After I signed in at the outdoor clinic’a series of small tents in Toronto’s bustling Dundas Square’a nurse placed small drops of seven liquids on the inside of my lower arm, which would be used to test whether I was allergic to the common allergy culprits, including dust mites, animal (cat) dander, trees and weeds. She pricked each spot with a small sharp hook. Then I waited 15 minutes for any reaction to develop. An estimated 20% to 25% of Canadians suffer from allergic rhinitis (allergies). Was I one of them?

The top spot on my arm was red and the area around it speckled as Toronto allergist Dr. Mark Greenwald examined the results. But it turns out this spot was a standard test using histamine’to ensure that I was indeed reacting. The rest: zilch.

Others had more reactive results. A pregant woman in front of me in the line learned she did have allergies and was directed to check in with her doctor to determine how to control them during her pregnancy. And the organizers talked about a man they tested in the previous week’s clinic who said he never had allergy symptons, yet reacted strongly (a very red swollen arm) to all the allergens.

For me, next time I’ve got a runny nose during ragweed or tree pollen season, there’s no longer a question: I’ve got a cold.

Do you struggle with seasonal allergies? How do they affect your life? Any advice or suggestions for others on keeping your symptoms under control?

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