Spring is in the air and so is the pollen! Have you been seized by sudden sneezing attacks, a runny nose and watery, itchy eyes? Is your throat scratchy and sore? If this sounds familiar, then you might be suffering from allergies…or maybe you’ve just got a common cold.
Because the symptoms are so similar, it’s often hard to distinguish between allergies and colds, and if you don’t know what you are suffering from, then it’s impossible to effectively treat your symptoms. Stop suffering from that runny nose right now by understanding the difference between colds and allergies.
Typical Cold Symptoms
Everyone has suffered from the occasional nasty cold. It can leave you laid up with a sore throat, runny nose, achy muscles and a nasty cough. Sometimes, however, colds are less severe and mimic the same symptoms that allergy sufferers experience. Here’s the lowdown on traditional cold symptoms so that you can figure out what you are suffering from.
The primary distinguishing factor between colds and allergies is the duration of your symptoms. Cold symptoms tend to go away after about a week, while allergy symptoms can last much longer than that, particularly if they are not treated properly.
Another big difference between colds and allergies is that colds are caused by viruses and are contagious, while allergies are not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. Because colds are caused by viruses, there’s not much you can do except get rest, drink lots of fluids and if the symptoms are very severe, opt for over-the-counter medication or visit your doctor.
Typical Allergy Symptoms
Allergies, on the other hand, are not caused by a virus, but instead are the result of exposure to an allergen. People are affected differently by different allergens. For example, pollen and animal dander might cause allergic reactions in some people, while chemical allergens such as fragrance can cause allergic reactions in other people.
Most commonly, people suffer from reactions to natural allergens such as pollen, molds, and dust mites. However, if you can’t identify an allergen that is causing your allergic reactions, you may have to visit a doctor to have tests done to isolate the allergen.
While allergies generally cause the same or similar symptoms as do colds – watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing – there are significant differences between cold and allergy symptoms. For example, allergy symptoms can continue for long periods of time unless treated. Colds, on the other hand, tend to go away after a few days.
With colds, you won’t start to get the symptoms immediately upon exposure to someone with a cold virus. Allergies, however, can start immediately upon exposure to the allergen. If your throat hurts and your body is achy and sore, chances are good that you have a cold and not an allergy. Plus, allergies do not result in a fever, which is a common cold symptom. With those points in mind, you should be able to tell if you are suffering from a cold or an allergy.
If it’s a cold you’ve got, then you should resort to the traditional methods of treatment – rest, liquids, and pain killers. If you don’t think it’s a cold and are pretty sure you’ve got an allergy, then you must treat it to alleviate the symptoms.
Preventing Allergy Attacks
Before you start treating your allergies, you should concentrate on preventing allergic reactions. If you know your “allergy trigger”, then you can do your best to avoid it which will (hopefully) prevent a nasty allergic reaction. For example, if you start sneezing and wiping your nose as soon as the snow melts and the grass starts growing, you are probably allergic to a form of pollen. To avoid a reaction, you might want to avoid the outdoors when the pollen is particularly bad.
Another common trigger is dust mites which are found in pillows and mattresses. It’s a good idea to wash your pillows regularly or to purchase new ones. If you could see the mites that were living in your pillows and other bedding, you would sterilize everything in your house and buy new bedding. Since that’s not feasible, just try to keep things as clean as possible. And if it’s a pet that’s causing your allergies to flare up, then do the same thing – wash them regularly!
How To Treat Your Allergies
There are a million different types of allergy medication out there, all designed to treat your allergy symptoms so that you can get on with your life. However, not all of them will work for everyone, so it will take some experimenting to determine which one is most effective for you. Before you try any medication, however, you should always read the label carefully, taking particular note of the possible side effects. If you are on other medication, consult your doctor about the allergy medication you intend to take to avoid any mistakes.
Antihistamines are the most common over-the-counter medication you can get for your allergies. They are designed to stop the traditional allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itchy eyes.
Even hives can be treated with antihistamines. If you are unsure of which over-the-counter drugs are antihistamines, then ask the pharmacist before purchasing. Decongestants are also readily available to treat your stuffed nose. For example, sometimes the most effective way to treat nasal congestion caused by allergies is through nasal sprays.
Whatever medication you choose, remember that it’s only a treatment for your symptoms and not a cure for your allergy. Also, note that while your runny eyes and sniffling nose might be temporarily relieved, the drugs you ingested may cause severe drowsiness, so they cannot be taken at any time.
If you suffer from constant allergy problems, then you may simply want to visit your doctor who can prescribe drugs which can last longer and may not cause you to fall asleep all the time!