Sore throats and stuffy heads are common with the changing weather. But are they caused due to a cold virus or seasonal allergies? Whether you are coughing or sneezing, having a runny nose or blockage, the first thought that may strike your mind is that you may have a cold. However, these are also signs of allergies.
Both children and adults are likely to face these two common health conditions. Although the symptoms are quite similar, colds and allergies are different. Is it hard for you to determine whether you have a common cold or an allergy?
In this post, we’ll explore the difference between colds and allergies, understand the causes and diagnosis process as well as find the right treatment procedures for them.
Symptoms of a Cold
If you have a runny nose and a sore throat in addition to sneezing and coughing, you likely have caught a cold virus. A fever, body ache, and headache can occur with a more severe cold. People with allergies are more prone to catching colds.
Symptoms of Allergies
Symptoms like sore throats, sneezing, runny nose, and coughing may also occur with allergies, but unlike cold, allergies lack some severe symptoms like body aches and fevers. Rashes and itchy eyes are always the indicators of allergies.
How to Tell the Difference?
In addition to identifying the symptoms that colds and allergies don’t share, there are a few more indicators that may set them apart.
- Symptoms that tend to appear gradually over a day or two are likely to be caused by a cold. If your symptoms appear all-of-a-sudden and disappear quickly, you are probably suffering from an allergy. Cold symptoms persist for a week or two whereas the symptoms of an allergy may last till the exposure to the triggering allergen is in the air.
- If symptoms tend to occur at the same time every year, this can be caused due to seasonal allergies. People are more likely to catch colds during the fall and winter months.
- Another way to tell the difference between a cold and allergies is by observing symptoms that happen in specific locations. If you are experiencing itchy eyes only outside, chances are that you have allergies in particular environment.
Understand the Causes
To get more insight on these two different health conditions, it’s helpful to understand what causes a cold and allergies.
- Cold – A cold can be caused due to various subtypes of viruses, rhinovirus is the most common. Colds are transmitted through the virus droplets in the air that a sick person sheds while coughing and sneezing.
- Allergies – An allergy is neither communicable nor caused by a virus. It develops in the body when the immune system reacts to a harmful substance. Allergies can be caused by environmental factors such as smoke, mold, dust, and pollution. People are allergic to certain foods and medications which may cause more serious reactions than environmental allergens.
Diagnosing Colds & Allergies
If you have a cold, you generally don’t need to visit your primary care doctor. However, you may get a diagnosis if your symptoms are severe. When diagnosing your cold, you might be recommended for other tests like chest X-ray or a throat culture if your doctor thinks that you might have a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or strep throat.
When it comes to diagnosing allergies, your internal medicine doctor will discuss your symptoms and recommend tests accordingly. There are various tests that can be used to diagnose allergies based on your age and health conditions. Your doctor may use a skin test to determine your allergy triggers.
Treatment for a Common Cold & Allergies
There are medications that can help you get rid of the cold virus over time. These include decongestant nasal sprays, cough syrups, and pain relievers. Don’t use cold medications for an extended period than prescribed as it may cause rebound congestion and other side effects. It is best to consult your primary care physician about the dosage and the time duration of taking the prescribed medications.
Allergies can be treated by taking over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, eye drops, and allergy shots. These medications can help relieve allergy symptoms. One best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid your exposure to the elements that cause allergies. As the body gets used to the allergen, allergies symptoms often decrease over time.
If you are struggling to identify whether you are suffering from a cold or an allergy and just want some relief, it is good to see a doctor of internal medicine in Brooklyn NYC. The primary care doctors at Artisans of Medicine are competent to develop an appropriate treatment plan based on your specific medical condition. Book an appointment with us today!