Is it a Cold or Allergies?

Is it a Cold or Allergies?

It’s cold and flu season, so your constant dry cough and sneezing must be a virus you picked up somewhere, right? … or could it be hay fever triggered by environmental allergies? This is a question that has perplexed many over the years.

What is the difference between the Common Cold and Allergies?

Colds and Allergies can have common symptoms, but they have different causes and should be treated differently.

You get a cold when you come into contact with a virus, and there are hundreds of different types that can make you sick. The viruses that cause colds are contagious, and transmitted when who’s infected sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. Once a cold virus gets inside you, your immune system launches a counter-attack, and it takes a few days for the symptoms to appear. It’s this response that brings on the classic symptoms like a cough or stuffed up nose. After 7 to 10 days, your immune system should be able to fight off the illness and you should stop having symptoms.

Environmental allergies are caused by an overactive immune system. The body recognizes some proteins like dust or pollen as harmful and responds by attacking them. Symptoms usually begin immediately after coming into contact with an allergic trigger. When that happens, the body releases chemicals such as histamine, which can cause a swelling in the passageways of your nose, that triggers sneezing, congestion and coughing. Allergies are not contagious, but can be developed over time, and severity of reactions can change.

The most significant difference is that colds usually don’t last longer than 14 days. It is important to see your doctor if you still have symptoms after 2 weeks, as they may be allergy symptoms or signs of another problem.

Common Symptoms*

Symptom

Cold

Allergy

Cough

Often

Sometimes

Aches

Sometimes

Never

Fatigue

Sometimes

Sometimes

Fever

Rarely

Never

Itchy, watery eyes

Rarely

Often

Sore throat

Often

Sometimes

Runny or stuffy nose

Often

Often

* Source: WebMD.com

 

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