Is it a cold? Or is it really allergies? How to tell the difference

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By Andrew H. Jones

Is it a cold or allergies? This is a question that plagues many people this time of year. On one hand, you’ve been sneezing and sniffling, swallowing over-the-counter meds every few hours. On the other hand, it’s been going on for two and a half weeks now and it seems there is no end in sight. Let’s take a closer look at some of the similarities and differences to better understand what may be ailing you.

Similarities of Allergies & Colds:
• Sneezing
• Runny nose
• Congestion and stuffy nose
• Coughing
• Sore throat

Differences of Allergies & Colds:
• Itchy eyes are a less common symptom of a cold
• Severe colds can cause fevers and body aches and are not usually signs of allergies
• Sore throat in allergies is most often caused by postnasal drip
• Allergies can cause rashes

“People with allergies are sometimes more prone to catching colds. Recovery from a cold is usually quick – in fact, the average duration of a cold is 7 to 10 days.

If symptoms last more than a week or two, the cold may have progressed into a secondary bacterial infection such as bronchitis or sinusitis. Allergies are more difficult to predict and can be a little tricky, they can be seasonal, or come and go daily and reoccur often” (Dr. Ted Crawford, DO, Medical Director, Sun Life Family Health Center, 2017).

As the season begins to warm, the plants begin to pollinate, spreading the ‘joy’ in the air to all of us who are susceptible to seasonal allergies. However, we are still in the middle of cold and flu season. So the sniffles may very well be one last ride on the Rhinovirus bandwagon..

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Allergies range from mild to seasonal allergies with more severe symptoms; which can cause life-threatening reactions. People can have an array of symptoms and allergic reactions to any number of things, including various airborne pollens, foods, medications, and allergy shots. Whether you have a mild or severe allergy, you should know the proper response to a reaction, address accordingly, and minimize your discomfort.

Keeping track of the local daily pollen percentages in your area can be very helpful and might make you Ah-Ah-Ah-choose to stay inside, wear a preventative mask, or limit your outdoor activities. Here is a helpful website that can help keep you informed of your local air pollen content.

Scheduling an appointment with your Sun Life Family Health Center provider is the first step to treating your cold or allergies. He or she will be able to diagnose your symptoms and refer you to a local (specialist) allergist. The allergist can then test you to find out what triggered your allergic reaction and can prescribe medication or give you allergy shots to help manage your symptoms.

Dr. Ted Crawford, DO, Medical Director – Sun Life family
Health Center


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