An allergy and a cold have similar symptoms and it is difficult to tell one from the other. Are your sniffles, sneezing, and wheezing getting on your nerves? Do you have an allergy, or a cold? How can you tell?
Usually, we make a wild guess when we have the sniffles. But if we mistake our cold for an allergy, then the untreated cold might get worse and progress into an infection, and vice versa. If we think that we have a cold, but in fact it is our allergy is acting up, then there’s a danger that our condition might develop into sinusitis or an ear infection. What an expensive guess!
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Common symptoms between an allergy and a cold include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, wheezing, and watery or itchy eyes.
It is an allergy if skin rashes erupt, or if there is occurrence of asthma. You’ll also notice allergic shiners, or dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.
However, if you have additional symptoms such as fever, body aches, a sore and scratchy throat, some sinus pain, green or yellow mucus discharge, and significantly swollen glands, then you have a cold.
An allergy is caused by exposure to an allergen, a harmless foreign substance that the body’s immune system mistake as something threatening. The allergic reaction is actually an inappropriate response of the immune system. Substances such as pollens, molds, and house dust mites trigger allergic rhinitis, which has similar symptoms with a cold. On the other hand, a cold is an infection caused by a virus or bacteria. You can catch a cold from someone else, but you cannot catch an allergy because allergies are not contagious.
Allergy symptoms erupt immediately after exposure to the allergen. But with a cold, the symptoms will take a few days to completely manifest.
Allergy symptoms only last as long as you are exposed to the allergen. It’s an allergy if you notice that you have cold symptoms the same time ever year. Also, if the allergen is present all year round, then the allergy symptoms would be chronic. As for colds, the virus should last for a period of 7 to 10 days only.
To cure an allergy, try to reduce your exposure to the allergen, and use whatever prescription or over over-the-counter medicine your doctor prescribed. Ask your allergist also if they recommend immunotherapy to reduce your sensitivity to the allergen.
To cure a cold, just let it run its course. Get some rest and drink lots of fluids and eat a nutritious meal. To manage the symptoms, over-the-counter oral decongestants or nasal saline will help.
WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR
It is time to see a doctor if the cold persists past 10 days. Also, if you develop ear pain, sinus pain, tooth pain, or if you have a high fever that last for three days or more, your condition has worsened and you should seek treatment immediately.