Fighting a Cold or Seasonal Allergies? Know the Difference

What Is the Cause Behind the Symptoms?

Do you find yourself going through more tissue as the Fall months roll in? Have you noticed friends of family members are sniffling, coughing or seem groggy? You are not alone in you battle against the changing seasons and the havoc they wreak on the sinuses, throat and nose. If you are wondering if you have caught a cold, or if it may just be allergies, read on to learn about the difference and how to fight them. 


Knowing the cause of the symptoms is your first line of defense. With the change of the season comes the release of pollen and allergens in the air. The body reacts by fighting the pollen as if it is an invader, and the immune system goes into overdrive. Classic allergies appear when body releases histamines, the lining of the nose swells, and mucous membranes produce increased mucus. On the contrary, colds are caused by our system being exposed to a virus, causing the body to attack the body to attack the virus and creating the symptoms of the cold. After a few weeks, the body fights off the cold virus and the symptoms fade away. 

How Can I Tell Which One I’m Fighting?

Classic cold symptoms have a few telltale differences from allergies. These include body aches, fever, and possibly colored nasal discharge. Another sign that you are fighting a cold rather than allergies is the duration of the symptoms. Typical cold symptoms last from a few days to a few weeks, while allergies last much longer, as the pollen may be present for months. If your symptoms are present during Spring, Summer or Fall, you may be fighting allergies, as colds are most prevalent during the Winter. 

What do allergies and colds have in common? Both a cold and allergies will most likely result in a runny nose, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Although a cough or sore throat is more prevalent with a cold virus, it may occur with allergies due to post nasal drip. Cold symptoms are best cared for with rest, vitamin C, and over the counter decongestants or cough suppressants. Allergies are best fought with antihistamines or nasal steroid sprays, while avoiding exposure to the allergens responsible for your symptoms. 

Stay Hydrated and Practice Self Care

Taking care of your skin and overall health while battling a cold or allergies is an important part of feeling your best. Consider using lotion, oils, or even a lip balm for your nostrils and lips to minimize chapping or feeling raw. Moisturize externally while also being sure to drink water, so you don’t become dehydrated. Using a humidifier or vaporizer at home can help keep your sinuses clear, keep your mouth from becoming dry while you sleep, and keep you from becoming dehydrated. These little added ways to practice self care can make dealing with sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes a bit more bearable. Of course, if nothing seems to help and symptoms persist, consult your physician for options and management care.