Colds Vs Allergies
Watery, red eyes, sneezing, and a head that feels like it is stuffed like cotton. When the flowers are in bloom and pollen is floating around in the air, it is hard to tell if you are suffering from a cold or have developed allergies.
Although many of the symptoms are same, there are many telltale differences between the two afflictions. Below is a breakdown of both colds and allergies so you can differentiate between the two and find the right treatment.
The Characteristics of a Cold
Colds are a virus and extremely contagious. Although there are over a hundred different virus strains that cause a cold to occur, they all more or less cause the same symptoms.
You can expect to experience cold symptoms one to three days after being exposed to the offending virus. If you are indeed suffering from a cold, you may experience some of these symptoms:
• Sore of itchy throat
• Stuffy or runny nose
• Watery eyes
• A yellow or greenish discharge running from your nose
• Watery eyes
• Mild headache
• Slight body aches
• Mild fatigue
• Low-grade fever
Key Features of the Common Cold
There are some distinguishing features of a cold that help set it apart from allergies. These key features include:
- Unlike allergies, colds are extremely contagious. They can be spread throughout the air via sneezing and coughing. It can be spread through direct contact as well.
- If you’re suffering from a more severe form of the cold virus, you may experience more significant fatigue, body aches, and a fever.
- The hallmark features of a cold are stuffy, runny nose, sore throat, and a cough.
- You are less likely to suffer from itchy eyes and sneezing while suffering from a cold. These two symptoms are more characteristic of allergies.
- It is usually pretty easy to bounce back from a cold. The recovery time for a cold is usually between 7 and 10 days. You may want to see a doctor if your symptoms persist for two weeks or more as your cold may have upgraded to infection status.
- Although allergies and colds are two different afflictions, people that suffer from allergies are actually more vulnerable to catching a cold.
- Despite the common misconception that you can only get a cold during the wintertime, you can actually catch a cold during anytime of year. In fact, most people catch between 2-3 colds a year. Children may catch more colds throughout the year as they have weaker immune systems.
The Characteristics of Allergies
Allergies are a whole different animal. They are not the result of a virus attacking your immune system like a cold; however, they are the result of your immune reacting to certain substances entering your body.
When you are exposed to a triggering substance (pollen, for example), your body goes into overdrive, sending in the big guns to fight the so-called invader, releasing a substance called histamines. Unfortunately, it is not the invader causing your body to experience allergic symptoms, it is the histamine your body releases.
When you are having an allergic reaction, you can expect to experience some of the following symptoms:
• Nasal congestion
• Runny nose
• Watery, itchy eyes
• Itchy throat
• Itchy skin
• Stomach ache
Treating the Common Cold
One reason it is important to determine whether you are suffering from a cold or allergies is that it affects treatment—you will only get relief of the symptoms if you are treating the right affliction.
Although colds are a virus and therefore cannot be cured, there are some measures you can take to alleviate the symptoms while the virus runs its course. Some ways you can address cold symptoms can include:
- Drink plenty of water. Other fluids, such as herbal teas and juice are good too.
- Use a humidifier.
- Gargle with salt water—this will help alleviate a sore throat and kill any bacteria lingering in your throat and mouth.
- Use saline nasal spray.
- Acetaminophen pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol
- Cough syrups—Don’t use cough syrup on children under two years of age. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking any over the counter cold medicine, particularly if you are taking any medication or suffer from any other health complications.
- Decongestant sprays—Only use these sprays for the first few days of your cold. Decongestant sprays are not recommended for the use of children
- Multi-Symptom cold relief medicine like DayQuil or NightQuil, which will help you get some much needed rest at night
Key Features of Allergies
There are some distinguishing features of allergies that help set it apart from a common cold. These key features include:
- Despite the marked difference between allergies and colds, they do share some symptoms. These symptoms are congestion, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and sneezing.
- If you have a fever or body aches, chances are, you may be suffering from a cold or some other illness. Fever and body aches are not characteristic of allergies.
- Unlike colds, allergies may also cause itchy skin; itchy, red eyes, and rashes.
- If your allergies are causing you to experience a sore throat, it is most likely due to postnasal drip.
- You can distinguish between a cold and allergies by how long you experience symptoms. Common cold symptoms will dissipate between 7-10 days while allergy symptoms will stick around as long as you are exposed to the trigger. Once you remove the offending trigger, you should be on the road to recovery, although some treatment may be required.
A good portion of allergy sufferers experience seasonal allergies, which arrive every year like clockwork. However, some people may be allergic to certain substances, which can strike anytime of the year. The following are considered allergy triggers:
• Animal dander
• Pollen from the outdoors, such as weeds, grass, and trees
• Dust mites
• Food, like dairy, nuts, eggs, and tree nuts
The good news is, unlike colds, you can treat allergies. Listed below are some treatments you can use to help battle your allergies:
- Antihistamines such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Allegra. These medications get the job done by blocking the histamine response to allergens invading your body and thus, decreasing your allergic symptoms. It should be noted that a common feature of antihistamines is that they cause drowsiness, so either be sure to purchase a non-drowsy formula or only take them at night.
- People suffering from severe allergies may benefit from a decongestant to help break up congestion stemming from allergy symptoms. Decongestants get the job done by breaking up congestion and then drying up the excess mucus in the sinuses. Common decongestants that people like to use are Sudafed, Mucinex, etc. It should be noted that decongestants should only be used for a short period of time. An excessive use of decongestants can actually end up make your symptoms worse.
- Use a humidifier.
- Using a saline spray may also help to alleviate symptoms.
- Before using any over the counter medicine to treat your cold or allergies, you should always consult a doctor first to make sure they don’t complicate any underlying health conditions or counteract any other medications you may be taking.
- If your cold symptoms or allergies don’t clear up at taking medication, you may want to see your doctor to make sure you don’t have any other infections, such as a sinus infection. Sinus infections are the result of bacteria invading the sinuses and can be brought on my both allergies and a cold.