Common Cold or Allergies? How to Tell the Two Apart
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between allergies and a cold. Others may run from you, thinking you’re contagious, but in reality, you may just be suffering from a bad case of allergies. Like a cold, allergy symptoms can include runny nose, a cough, sneezing, and congestion, but once you learn the difference, you can get the proper treatment.
Identifying a Cold
Unless you are an invincible health fanatic who never gets sick, chances are you’ve had a common cold. Colds are usually viruses that can take on approximately 100 different forms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, but each cold generally has the same qualities.
Symptoms of a common cold include the following:
- Runny nose, cough, sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion
- Body aches and fevers (for more severe colds)
- An average sickness of 7-10 days (if your cold is longer, then it might be time to go to the doctor and make sure you don’t have an infection)
- Can occur year-round
The 411 on Allergies
Allergies are a result of your body reacting badly to certain substances that surround you. When your body is exposed to these substances, your immune system releases histamines that cause allergy symptoms.
Here are some typical allergy symptoms:
- The similar characteristics of a cold: runny nose, cough, sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion
- Sore throat resulting from a postnasal drip
- A rash or hives
It’s also important to note that if you have fevers or body aches, then it’s likely safe to say that these are not allergies. The duration of your allergies is also very different from a common cold. They will stick around and symptoms won’t improve if they are not treated.
Getting Rid of that Nasty Cold
Colds don’t have a specific treatment, but there are medications out there that can reduce your symptoms throughout your cold.
Some of the best cold remedies that can alleviate your symptoms include:
- Cough syrup
- Decongestant or nasal sprays (don’t use these longer than a few days)
- Tylenol, Advil, or cold relief medicines
- Staying hydrated
- Warm salt water rinse for a sore throat
- Using a humidifier
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications in case you are on any other medications or have some kind of health condition. Also, cold medicine should not be used for a long amount of time.
Similar to a cold, there are over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate allergies. These include antihistamines such as Aerius, Allegra, Claritin, Benadryl and Zyrtec. These type of medications block histamine reactions to provide allergy relief. All these medications are offered in both drowsy and non-drowsy forms.
If antihistamines do not provide you with any relief, then you can see a qualified doctor who will prescribe a decongestant for you. Decongestants function by drying up the sinuses, which breaks up congestion. However, if you use these for too long, they may worsen your congestion over time.
As mentioned before, saline sprays and humidifiers can help with the common cold, but they are also quite successful in reducing allergy symptoms.
Knowing the difference between a cold and allergies can set you on the right path to feeling better. If you’ve tried all of these remedies to no avail, your doctor will be able to assist you and ensure it’s not an infection. Infections like a sinus infection can cause you to feel uncomfortable and can only be treated through an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor. Also, if you notice an unsightly symptom like colored phlegm, it’s advised to seek medical attention.
If you think you are suffering from allergies and want to know more information, Dr. Mayank Shukla and his friendly staff are happy to address any concerns or solutions that would work for you. Contact our office today for an appointment or more information.