Let’s clear the air: asthma, allergies and the common cold

August 19, 2021

Is it asthma or allergies or a cold?

There are common Asthma symptoms shared between each of these. But there are also many differences.

Here, we help clear the air around the various symptoms — and how they relate to each other. This asthma action plan is the first step to getting the best diagnosis and the correct treatment.

Asthma symptoms

Asthma symptoms, allergies and the common cold

Gradual or sudden onset of symptoms
Sudden onset at particular times of year
Common Cold
Gradual onset of symptoms
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathingCommonNo*No*
Rapid breathingCommonNo*No*
Chest tightness/painCommonNo*No*
Sore throatNo*CommonCommon
Aches and painsRareNoNo
Itchy eyesNoCommonRare

*Those who get allergies may also experience asthma during allergy season — and vice versa. Colds can also trigger or worsen asthma symptoms.

If you’re unsure about what might be affecting you, please contact a GP. They can help you:

  • work out an effective treatment plan for your seasonal allergies and/or asthma
  • continue your current seasonal allergies or asthma treatment plan to minimise your symptoms

InstantScripts® GPs can help with asthma or allergy diagnosis, management and specialist referrals.

Your asthma action plan

Asthma affects 1 in 9 Australians. The most common asthma symptoms are:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • feeling ‘out of breath’
  • tightness in the chest
Asthma puffer

Asthma symptoms are typically mild. But sometimes, symptoms can flare up and require hospital care.

Call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance if you have symptoms of severe asthma:

  • feeling very distressed, exhausted or even limp from trying to breathe
  • deep sucking motions at the throat or chest while trying to breathe

To combat your asthma, you need a plan. This is called your asthma action plan. It’s essentially a set of instructions that includes:

  • a list of your usual asthma medicines and doses
  • guidance on what to do in different situations (for example, if you have an asthma emergency)
  • and your doctor’s contact details

Your asthma action plan may need tweaking from time to time. Keep it up to date by checking in with your doctor regularly.

Medicines for asthma

There are three main types of medicine to treat asthma:

Asthma relievers help open your airways quickly to relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. They work within minutes and the effects can last for a few hours.
Asthma preventers help prevent asthma attacks. These medicines relax your airways. Preventer Asthma medication comes in either inhaler (Asthma puffers) or tablet form and should be taken every day.
Asthma controllers are medicines that help to control asthma when a preventer medication isn’t enough. They help in a similar way to asthma relievers, but last longer. They are often combined with a preventer medicine into a single inhaler.

It also helps to have flu vaccination each year. Flu and other respiratory viruses are common asthma triggers.

Already using a medicine for asthma and need a repeat script? InstantScripts can help with that.

Common asthma triggers

  • Pollen, dust, food items and mould (allergic asthma)
  • Smoke from cigarettes, bushfires and traffic pollution
  • Strong odours from cleaning products, perfumes, aerosol products and certain workplace chemicals
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Infection from cold and flu viruses
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