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Health and Fitness News

Colds Vs. Allergies

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Here are a few clues to help you do just that.

Your nose is running and you feel a bit under the weather. Could you be coming down with a cold or is it just your allergies flaring up? Many people have trouble telling the difference between cold and allergy symptoms, especially when the symptoms are affecting a child. Parents often blame cold-like symptoms on allergies, not worrying if their child is contagious.

Doing this can infect others, causing them to feel miserable.

Whether it’s affecting an adult or a child, here are a few ways to determine whether you’re dealing with a cold or allergies.

The Causes

While symptoms may be similar, colds and allergies have different root causes. Colds are caused by a virus. Because there are more than 100 different cold viruses and they’re each highly contagious, you’re bound to get a cold every once in a while. Your body’s immune response to the virus is what causes your symptoms. As soon as your body learns to fight off the infection, you should be feeling better.

Allergies, on the other hand, are the result of an overactive immune system. There’s nothing harmful attacking your immune system, but your body mistakenly believes things like pollen, dust, or cat dander are foreign invaders to be attacked. This misunderstanding triggers an immune response, which results in released histamine and symptoms similar to a cold. Allergies aren’t contagious but may run in families.

The Duration

You can often determine whether it’s a cold or allergies based on symptoms and how long they last. A cold typically takes between 3 and 14 days to run its course. Allergies may last a few days or months, and will come and go depending on how long you’re in contact with the allergen. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, see your doctor.

Also, colds occur most often in the winter months, while allergies can happen anytime of the year. Seasonal allergies, however, are usually worse in the fall and spring.

The Symptoms

While colds and allergies share a few symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing, cough, sore throat, and fatigue, colds are more likely to come with aches and possibly a mild fever. When dealing with allergies, you won’t feel achy or have a fever. Still not sure? One surefire way to tell if you’re dealing with allergies is if you’ve got itchy, watery eyes.

To determine if you have an allergy, take note of possible triggers. Do you feel worse on days you’ve been outdoors, when your cat slept in your bed, or on warm spring days? Remove the trigger and see if your symptoms improve.

Finding Relief

Life can’t stop just because you’ve got a cold or allergies. Knowing what you’re dealing with will help you determine the best method of treatment. Regardless of the cause, there are ways to bring relief to your symptoms.

Colds can’t be overcome with medication, but as it runs its course there are ways to feel better. Try pain medication, decongestants, and cough medicine. Some medications will relieve multiple symptoms at once. Just make sure it won’t cause you to feel sleepy if you need to stay awake. Prefer to avoid the pharmacy? Home remedies include drinking plenty of water, gargling with salt water, getting adequate rest, and using a humidifier.

While you can’t treat a cold, you can treat allergies. Over-the-counter antihistamines are your best bet to reduce symptoms. Decongestants may also be used. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of allergy shots that have the potential of helping heal allergies over time.

Keep in mind that colds and allergies can lead to sinus infections from the buildup of mucus in the sinuses. Caused by bacteria, these infections can be treated with antibiotics. A better option, however, is to blow your nose when you need to and keep your hands clean!