Is It Allergies or a Cold?

Apr 03, 2024
Is It Allergies or a Cold?
You’re sneezing, coughing, and constantly blowing your nose. Do you take a decongestant? An antihistamine? Aspirin? The first step is figuring out whether you have a cold or allergies. Here’s how.

You’ve got a runny nose, a sore throat, and a headache. You know it’s nothing major, but how do you know if it’s a garden variety cold or a case of seasonal allergies?

It’s easy to lose your way while wandering in the woods of similar symptoms. But fret not; we’re about to demystify your seasonal sniffles and common cold issues. 

Join Dr. Asif Aziz, our experienced physician at Prestige Primary Care, P.A., in Dallas, Texas, as he unravels the mysteries of colds vs. allergies and explains how to manage and mitigate the frustrating symptoms of these common health issues.

Allergies vs. colds: How to tell the difference

Telling an allergy apart from a cold can be confusing. Both can leave you feeling under the weather, but they’re miles apart in cause and course. 

Allergies, your body’s response to seasonal substances in the air, tend to linger longer and kick in when you’re around specific triggers. 

On the other hand, a cold is typically a brief invasion that subsides after it runs its course.

The distinct signs of allergies

The most commonly shared symptoms of allergies and colds include nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and the notorious runny nose. 

However, allergies often bring unique problems — itchy and watery eyes, sneezing marathons, and sometimes skin rashes. Allergy symptoms can also come on more suddenly in the presence of a specific trigger, such as pollen or pet dander, and can last as long as the exposure continues, usually disappearing once you remove or get away from the allergen.

Decoding the cold's clues

Colds typically come with fatigue, muscle aches, and sore throat, which aren’t typical with allergies. 

The common cold is a viral infection, often caused by different strains of the cold virus, which can easily pass from person to person. Cold symptoms usually peak around 3-5 days after onset and can last up to two weeks in severe cases. Colds rarely last beyond that mark, so if your symptoms persevere, it may be time to rethink your diagnosis.

Avoid misdiagnoses

Sometimes, the symptoms borrow from each other, creating confusion — sneezing fits, for example. 

Self-diagnosing can lead down the wrong path, especially considering that the common cold can sometimes aggravate underlying asthma or allergies. Always get a professional opinion from an experienced physician like Dr. Aziz when possible, as he can provide a correct diagnosis using sophisticated allergy testing and develop a tailored treatment plan for you.

Managing allergies and colds

Now that we’ve outlined the differences, what can you do to ease the symptoms of allergies and colds? 

Over-the-counter tactics

Decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and cough suppressants are excellent allies for the common cold. 

Antihistamines, on the other hand, are the first line of defense against allergic reactions, aiming to stave off the histamine tide before it wreaks havoc on your immune system.

Home remedies and lifestyle changes

Sometimes, you can win the war on home ground. 

Humidifiers can soothe dry nasal passageways, while steam inhalation can unclog sinuses. 

For a cold, a good rest and hydration can carry you through the worst. 

Allergies require an environmental shift, so consider allergen-proofing your home, installing air purifiers, and engaging in stress-reducing practices to help manage the body's hypersensitive response.

Preventing colds and allergies

They say prevention is worth a pound of cure, but how do you prepare for a run-in with the invisible army of pollen or the sneaky virus lurking on doorknobs?

Avoiding allergens and viruses

Allergies and colds often employ surprise attacks, but you're not entirely helpless. Shielding yourself from allergens, washing your hands frequently, and maintaining social distance during peak flu seasons can significantly reduce your risk.

Strengthening the troops

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can keep your immune system in top form. While none can guarantee you won’t catch a cold or develop allergies, together they can undoubtedly dampen symptom duration and severity.

Professional help for colds and allergies

Refuge in professional care isn’t a sign of defeat but of a strategy well played. When should you wave the white flag and seek Dr. Aziz’s advice?

When to call in reinforcements

If your symptoms worsen and last longer than expected, it’s time to regroup. 

High fever, severe headaches, and prolonged or difficult breathing are nothing to sneeze at; they need expert help. 

Diagnosis and defense

Allergy testing can pinpoint exactly what you’re allergic to, enabling a customized treatment plan. Dr. Aziz’s treatment suggestions range from over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and decongestants to allergy shots, gradually increasing your tolerance to allergens. 

For colds, rest, hydration, and symptom-specific treatments help manage the symptoms until your body defeats the virus.

If you’re still unsure whether you have a viral infection (a cold) or an immune system response (allergies), call Prestige Primary Care, P.A., or book an appointment online. Let’s figure it out together.