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Why do I catch cold and get a running nose so frequently?

Q: I have a tendency to catch cold and get a runny nose very frequently. I live in Delhi where the air tends to be a little dusty. I think my problem is related to this dust. Every morning I wake up with a running nose. Sometimes it lasts only a couple of hours, but sometimes it stays the whole day and is often accompanied with a headache or throat pain. Whenever there is dust in the air, I start sneezing and get a running nose, even if someone is dusting near me. I tend to catch cold if I don't get enough sleep, when I am under some kind of stress, during weather change or if I move in and out of AC environments too often. Is this some sort of allergy? How can this be diagnosed and cured? Please suggest the best institute for this kind of check-up in Delhi. How can I build higher immunity against cold?

A:Allergic rhinitis (AR), a common disease, is a reaction of the upper respiratory tract to a variety of allergens and is mediated by a type of immunoglobulin called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The most common allergens are dust mites, pets, cockroaches, molds, and pollens which cause release of chemicals. Due to these chemical mediators the patient gets symptoms like sneezing, nasal stuffiness, running nose, cough, itching of the nose, eyes, and throat, headache etc. Most allergens can be divided into seasonal allergens (pollens form flowers, trees, weeds, grass etc.) and round-the-year allergens (house dust, mites, molds etc.) The treatment includes a) avoiding the allergen, b) drugs, and c) immunotherapy. Try to avoid the offending agent and control the indoor environment. In case of seasonal allergy, avoid outdoor activities when allergens are in the air and keep the house and workplace as clean as possible. To reduce house dust mites removing carpets and heavy drapes and washing bed linen in hot water. The use of vacuum cleaner and air conditioning (keeping the humidity & temperature low) are helpful in controlling the dust mite population. The drugs commonly used are 1. Antihistamines, to relieve sneezing, itching, and running nose; 2. Corticosteroids (local or systemic) relieve running nose, sneezing, itching, and congestion; 3. Mast cell stabilisers are used prophylactically i.e. in between attacks and 4. Decongestant drugs that relieve nasal stuffiness. In case of severe allergy, which does not respond to above measures, recourse to immunotherapy can be taken.

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