Cold or Allergies: Understanding The Symptoms & Differences Between The Two

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Springtime is here and that means that millions of Americans are being hit by seasonal allergies.  For many people they wonder if their runny nose and watery eyes are the result of the common cold, or whether they are suffering from allergies.  The following outlines the primary symptoms for each.

Cold Symptoms:

  • Symptoms will appear in succession.  As an example, you may start with a runny nose and later you will get congestion and then a sore throat.

  • Your symptoms will typically clear-up within 10 days.

  • Yellow or green tinted mucus.

  • A low grade fever.

  • Fatigue.

  • Sore throat and/or ear pressure.

Allergy Symptoms:

  • Symptoms will appear in a regular pattern.  For instance, you may have the same symptoms each year when the Lilacs are in bloom.

  • Symptoms appear all at once.

  • Symptoms may last for weeks, or even months.

  • Clear, watery mucus.

  • No fever.

  • Fatigue.

  • Itchy palate (i.e. the itch in the back of your throat, or roof of your mouth, that is a constant irritant).

Most doctors can diagnose your problem during a routine exam with questions regarding the onset of your symptoms.  However, skin testing and an endoscopy are two tests that can be performed to provide a more accurate diagnosis. 

Hayfever is one of the most common types of allergies.  Some people suffer from hayfever allergies only during certain seasons, while others suffer from perennial or year round allergies. In addition to outdoor allergens, many people suffer allergies from household items like dust, mold and feathers.  People who suffer from year round allergies are typically allergic to a combinaton of indoor and outdoor allergens.

People often wonder if allergies can begin as an adult.  This typically is not the case.  Moving to a new area may trigger an allergy that had never been a problem.  And, allergies can become worse as you age.  So while you may have had allergies all your life and it just never bothered you, you may reach a point where the allergies become bothersome.  If that is the case, you should speak with your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and to discuss options for treating your symptoms.


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