Common Cold or Seasonal Allergies? Telling the Difference.
Your alarm goes off, its daybreak! As soon as you open your eyes, you sneeze a couple of times and soon, you could also have other additional symptoms such as a runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, itchy nose and throat, itchy eyes which may also produce excess tears. In your mind, you wonder why you seem to have a Cold all the time? What you suffer from is called Seasonal Allergies.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal Allergies also known as Allergic Rhinitis or Hay Fever refers to an overreaction by your immune system to substances in the air you breathe. These substances are called Allergens and include pollen (from trees, flowers, sometimes even grass), dust mites, animal fur, mold, wooden dust, chemicals, and even cereal grain in extreme cases.
What is a Cold?
A cold also known as a ‘Common Cold’ is caused by a virus, affects the Upper Respiratory Tract (nose and throat) and often lasts from 7 to 10 days. Symptoms of a cold appear one to three days after exposure to the cold virus.
Knowing the difference
Both seasonal allergies and a cold share the same symptoms which include a runny nose, scratchy sore throat, nasal congestion, coughing and sneezing. The difference usually is in the below;
Allergies cause itchy eyes and rashes while the common cold doesn’t
Severe colds can cause headaches, fevers, body aches and chills.
Duration- One recovers from a cold in 7-10 days while allergies are consistent throughout the year especially during certain seasons e.g.; spring, winter, summer, etc until one gets treated or the allergen/trigger is removed.
Time of the year- One is most likely to catch a cold during windy or cold temperatures while allergies can be anytime so long as the trigger/allergen exists in the environment.
Diagnosis- You can be tested for allergies by an allergist using the skin test while one does not normally need a doctor to diagnose a cold unless if it persists and there are other symptoms which may lead to a bacterial infection.
Management and Treatment
There is no guarantee that you will not have a cold at one time or the other. When you do catch a cold, most people are able to fight it without medication. However, you can get medication to relieve the cold symptoms as you wait for it to run its course. You can buy the following Over the Counter Medications (OTC) to manage a cold;
Decongestant Nasal Sprays
Pain relievers such as brufen or paracetamol
Home remedies such as lemon, honey, turmeric, ginger, gargling with warm salty water, among others
It helps to stay hydrated throughout the duration of your cold and rest as much as you can.
Use a humidifier
Increase your Vitamin C intake
You should however note that Cough syrups are not recommended for children under 4 and decongestant nasal sprays are not recommended for children under 6.
For allergies, it is as simple as removing or avoiding the trigger or allergen that causes your symptoms. This can be done by ensuring your house is clean and free of dust mites, cockroaches, and mold. For those allergic to pollen, avoid having flowers or mowing the loan or wear a mask when you do. If you cannot avoid your triggers, then you can use the following;
Antihistamines which work by blocking the release of histamines.
Get allergy shots
The Common Cold and seasonal allergies are two very different health conditions hence knowing which one you have is key to getting the right treatment and management.
Always consult your doctor before taking any medication to rule out any further allergic reactions.
If your symptoms run 10 days or more with additional symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as you may have a virus or bacteria that may need further treatment with antibiotics.
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