Allergies or a Cold? How to Tell the Difference
Differentiating between seasonal allergies and the common cold can be difficult, especially if you’re prone to allergies. Particularly during the onset of symptoms, it can be difficult to determine what it is you’re suffering from, as both colds and allergies share many overlapping expressions. These include runny or stuffy noses, coughs, and scratchy throats. This difficulty in telling the difference between a cold and allergies is exceedingly common, with seasonal allergies affecting about a third of adults and almost half of all children. So how do you finally make the distinction? Here are some helpful tips from Downriver ENT that can help you pinpoint the source of your symptoms.
Allergy Patterns and Duration
With most allergy sufferers, allergies follow a seasonal or annual pattern. Typically, your seasonal allergies will flare up around the same time every year when the allergens you’re vulnerable toward are at their peak. If you’re allergic to tree pollen, you can expect your allergies to begin flaring up every spring like clockwork. Since these allergies can affect you for an entire season that the allergen is present, it’s not uncommon for the associated symptoms to persist for weeks at a time. Compare this to a cold — typically, cold symptoms arrive and resolve in about a week’s time. So if your symptoms have been persisting for a while, there’s a good chance it’d due to allergies.
Fever or No Fever?
Allergies can present themselves through many irritating symptoms. However, one symptom that is never present from seasonal allergies is fever. If you’re experiencing “cold-like” symptoms but see no spike in body temperature, it’s likely that allergies are to blame. However, if you experience a fever, then it’s possible that you’re dealing with a cold. Sometimes fevers are mistakenly attributed to allergies, but this usually occurs when an individual has the misfortune of experiencing both a fever and allergies at the same time.
The Cough Says It All
Having a cough in itself doesn’t tell you much. However, the type of cough can say a lot about the root cause. The type of cough that occurs with a cold is typically a wet, hacking cough. This is due to the presence of mucus and phlegm that becomes increasingly thicker, and can often be green or yellow in color.
Allergy-induced coughs, on the other hand, tend to be drier and give the sensation of a “tickle” in your throat. This tickle occurs when the sensitive lining of your nose is irritated by allergens, which triggers your throat to produce a watery mucus. As this mucus drips down your throat, it can cause this uncomfortable “tickle” or “scratchy” sensation.
Itchy All Over
If you’re experiencing any type of itchiness, whether it’s around your eyes, your nose, your throat, and even your ears, then you’re almost certainly dealing with allergies. The very same allergens that cause your body to sneeze and cough also affect other parts of your body, creating that dry, itchy sensation. This is especially true around the soft, sensitive tissues around your eyes.
Aches and Pains? That’s a Cold
While allergies can produce some congestion that leads to headaches, and your throat may feel “scratchy,” two things that are almost never associated with allergies are sore throats and body aches. When you’re trying to tell the difference, ask yourself if what you’re feeling is more “scratchy and irritating” or “achy and sore.” The former is more in line with allergies, and the latter with colds. If you’re experiencing chills with aches and pains, then you’ve definitely crossed over into full-on cold and flu territory, as allergies will never produce the sensation of chills.
Allergy Testing and Treatment With Downriver ENT
If you’d finally like to get to the bottom of what allergens affect you the most, schedule an appointment with our ENT doctors at Downriver ENT in Southfield and Allen Park. We can test you for allergies and help determine what triggers your symptoms, like pollens, household allergens, and molds. Get the help you need by contacting us today! If you have any questions about the ear, nose, and throat services we offer, please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our specialists! We hope to hear from you soon.