As we clear out of cold season, another one hits: Allergy Season. As the two seasons overlap, how do you know if it’s a cold or allergies?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of colds and allergies may be similar – but there are also key differences. People should consider the following differences when trying to determine whether it’s a cold or allergies:
- FEVER occurs with a severe cold, especially in children. This is not an allergy symptom.
- SORE THROAT can occur with allergies, but is much more common with a cold.
- BODY ACHES do not occur with allergies – but are common with a cold.
- ECZEMA is not a symptom of a cold – but is associated with allergies in some people.
Duration of symptoms is also key in determining the difference between a cold and allergies. Cold symptoms generally last 7 to 10 days; while allergy symptoms can last several weeks – especially if the allergen remains in the air.
Common symptoms with colds and allergies make them difficult to differentiate. Both can cause:
- Runny nose
- Nasal Congestion
- Sore Throat
- Post-nasal drip
So what can you do? Ask yourself the following questions:
- How quickly did symptoms appear? If it’s a cold, symptoms come on gradually – over a day or two. When symptoms appear out of nowhere, it’s more likely to be allergies.
- How long have symptoms been present? A cold will taper off after 7 to 10 days, generally speaking. Allergies, on the other hand, will last as long as you are exposed to the triggering allergen that is still in the air.
- Do symptoms occur at predictable times? If you find yourself miserable at the same time of year, every year – it’s more likely you’re suffering from allergies.
- Do symptoms include itchy, watery eyes? These symptoms are generally more frequent with allergies as opposed to the common cold.
Bottom line: The best way to tell the difference between allergies and a cold is knowing your body’s symptom history. With allergies, symptoms appear during a certain season or come and go based on your environment. For instance, if symptoms appear suddenly every time you’re around animals or grass; it’s a strong signal this is due to allergies and not a cold.
Allergies are treatable, and no one needs to suffer. The best advice is to track your symptom history and talk to your doctor. If necessary, he or she can refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to pinpoint your allergen triggers. From there, an individualized treatment plan can be developed.
Don’t let another allergy season bring you down! Seek relief by speaking with your Primary Care Physician.