Do you have a runny nose that just won’t stop? Are you coughing and sneezing constantly, and feeling inexplicably tired during the day? While these are symptoms of the common cold, you may in fact have allergies.
Numerous similarities between allergy symptoms and the common cold exist. This article will help you tell the difference between the two and put you on the road to the correct treatment options.
Allergies and the Common Cold
Allergies occur because of an overactive immune system. The immune systems of people with allergies mistake pollen, mold and other innocent substances as threats. Once that happens, your immune system goes into attack mode. Thinking you have the common cold, your body releases chemicals normally used to destroy viruses. The result is swollen nasal passages and symptoms resembling a cold.
Knowing the difference between colds and allergies is important, not only for the purpose of treatment, but because colds can be highly contagious, whereas allergies are not.
Similarities Between Colds and Allergies
The reason it’s difficult to discern between a cold and allergies is because they share what can be called the “big three” symptoms.
- Coughing: not as common in allergies as it is in colds, but it’s still a possible symptom.
- Runny nose: a very common symptom of both.
- Sneezing: no cold or allergy is complete without it.
In addition, both also allergies and colds cause fatigue, watery, itchy eyes, headache and – while rare in allergies – possible chest discomfort.
Differences Between Allergy Symptoms and Cold Symptoms
Now that you know the similarities, you will be relieved to know there are enough differences between allergies and the common cold to make an educated guess as to what you have.
- A cold can leave you feeling achy and tired. Allergies do not.
- A cold usually lasts up to two weeks, while an allergy can last for months if you stay exposed to the allergen.
- While a fever can occur with colds, it is not a symptom of allergies.
- While a runny nose is common to both, what comes out is different. With allergies, your discharge is always be clear. A cold may show yellow or greenish mucus.
While often inherited, allergies may not develop them until later in life, depending upon how often you are exposed to the substance that causes a reaction.
Airborne allergens enter your body when you inhale. Some common airborne allergens include:
- animal dander from pets
- dust mites
- mold spores
- strong fragrances, such as perfumes.
As many as 50 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy. No cure for allergies is available, but relief for the symptoms is.
The best allergy relief is to eliminate or reduce exposure to the offending allergens. Some ways to avoid airborne allergens include:
- Having hard floors instead of carpet to minimize dust. Avoid heavy drapes and use special covers to seal pillows against dust mites.
- Keeping certain rooms animal-free, especially the bedroom, if you cannot give up your pet.
- Staying indoors as much as possible during pollen season.
Medicines such as antihistamines and steroids can also offer relief.