Clinical Contributors To This Story
Parneet Grewal, M.D. contributes to topics such as Family Medicine.
You might expect to have a scratchy throat and a runny nose in the dead of winter, but on a beautiful summers day, these symptoms seem out of place . It is possible to experience the common cold during the warm-weather months, but the symptoms may actually be a sign that you have allergies, not a cold. How can you tell the difference when youre feeling lousy?
Although colds and allergies have some overlapping symptoms, there are reliable ways to tell them apart, including the presence or absence of certain symptoms and the duration of your discomfort, says Parneet Grewal, M.D., a family medicine specialist with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group.
Summer colds can be different
Most people who get colds in the winter are infected by common viruses known as rhinoviruses, which are most active during the chillier months. Youre less likely to be exposed to, or become ill from, rhinoviruses when its warm out.
Instead, a different type of virus causes colds more often during the warmer months: Enteroviruses. Theyre less common than rhinoviruses overall, but theyre more prevalent during the summer.
Seasonal allergies can pop up during the summer
Many people with seasonal allergies experience discomfort during the springtime, when trees pollinate. But some people are allergic to grass or ragweed, which can cause allergy symptoms well into the summer.
COVID-19 symptoms mimic some cold and allergy symptoms
A Wet Hacking Cough Screams Cold
While a cough is common for both allergy flares and colds, the type of cough for each is different. A cold cough is wet and hacking, and often produces mucus or phlegm that gets progressively thicker, often taking on a green or yellow tinge.
Allergy-related coughs usually feel like you have a tickle in your throat. Thats because allergens often irritate the lining of your nose, which triggers your nasal passages to create a watery mucus. This can drip out of your nose and down the back of your throat, creating that tickling sensation.
What Causes Cold Sore Breakouts
The underlying process.
As this page explains, most of the time these virions will lie dormant and cause no apparent effects.
However at times, in response to some type of triggering event , they can become activated.
Once reactivation has begun, a cascade of events will occur that ultimately results in the formation of a cold sore breakout.
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Living With Allergic Rhinitis
Living with the symptoms of allergic rhinitis can affect your daily life. Nasal symptoms can be worse when lying down. This can disturb your ability to sleep well. Fatigue and headaches can affect your ability to function at school and work. There are many medicines and treatments that can help you manage your symptoms. Talk to your doctor as soon as you feel that your symptoms are getting worse or are not easy to control. He or she can help you come up with the right plan to control them so they dont affect your ability to live your normal life.
Talk With A Doctor Or Clinician To Create A Personalized Treatment Plan
If you arent sure if its a cold or allergies, or if your symptoms are severe or long-lasting, its best to connect with a care provider to get an official diagnosis and treatment plan.
If your allergy symptoms are left untreated, you could become more prone to getting sinus infections or other upper respiratory infections, or may lead to poor asthma control.
Also, a common cold can turn severe. So, if your cold has had you laid up longer than a day or two, get in touch with your doctor.
You have a couple options:
Make an appointment for face-to-face care from a primary care doctor or clinician. Whether you choose a video visit or in-person appointment, your doctor will listen to your symptoms, answer questions and work with you to create a tailored treatment plan including connecting you with an allergist or an otolaryngologist if needed.
Start a virtual visit anytime, anyplace through Virtuwell. With Virtuwell, no appointment is necessary and treatment is available 24/7. Getting started is easy. Well ask you a few questions, and youll get your diagnosis and treatment plan from a board-certified nurse practitioner. Each visit is just $59 or less, depending on your insurance.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Cold Sore
It is essential to define a fever blister. Understanding the symptoms enables you to identify the issue and separate it from skin conditions that are similar to cold sores.
The initial symptom of an outbreak usually involves a slight tingle or even burning sensation on the lip. This will be confined to a single area. This location is typically where the virus entered your body.
Following the tingle stage, a small cluster of blisters will appear. These blisters will typically increase in size and contain fluid. After a short time, the blisters will burst, and a scab will form.
Once the scab has naturally flaked away, new skin will emerge. At this time the outbreak is considered to be over and the virus no longer contagious. The typical outbreak will last no longer than two weeks, with proper OTC cold sore treatment.
During your initial cold sore outbreak, which is often the most problematic and painful, additional symptoms can also occur. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever, headache, mouth pain, and swollen lymph nodes.
- Understanding the symptoms and lifecycle of cold sores is critical. This can not only help you to understand HSV-1 and address other ailments. If you find yourself with a blister, yet cold sore symptoms are not occurring, you can likely conclude something else is to blame.
Allergies Do Not Cause Fevers
People often wonder if allergies can cause a fever. The answer is no. Allergies cannot cause a fever, though you could have an allergy flare at the same time youre experiencing a fever from another infection.
With a cold, your temperature can run warmer, but typically it will be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
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What Makes Cold Sores Flare Up
- If you have a cold or another infection of your respiratory tract – this can cause a temporary weakening of your body’s defences which can lead to a reactivation of the virus and a new crop of blisters.
- If youve got a fever or high temperature
- If youre dealing with stress or an emotional upset
- If youre feeling tired or fatigued
- If youve injured the affected area
- If youre having your period
- If youve been spending time in strong sunlight
Over The Counter Medications For Cold Sores And Fever Blisters
- Brand names listed as examples do not imply better quality over other brands. Generic equivalents may also exist.
- Use only as directed on the package, unless your healthcare provider instructs you to do otherwise.
- OTCs may interact with other medications or be potentially harmful if you have certain medical conditions. Talk to your pharmacist about options that are right for you.
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An Introduction To Sore Dry And Itchy Throats And Seasonal Allergies
Dry, itchy and sore throats are common symptoms which many seasonal allergies sufferers have to endure. They may not be the symptoms which spring to mind when we think of allergies, but for those who experience it, they can be some of the most irritating, making it painful to swallow.Dry throatWe all know that if we hold our nose, we have to breathe through our mouth. Holding your nose creates a similar effect to that of nasal congestion. If seasonal allergies is causing a blocked nose, you will be forced to use your mouth to breathe.
Your nose is lined with fine hair and mucus, making it more effective at warming air than your mouth. Having a blocked nose means that cold air is entering your mouth and throat when you breathe, drying out the moisture created by saliva. As the tissue in your throat is more sensitive than your mouth, we tend to notice the effect of dryness in our throats first.
Itchy throatYour nose is also better at filtering air than your mouth. This means that it traps pollen particles before they can enter into your system. However, when you begin to breathe through your mouth, the pollen particles have direct access into your body. They land at the back of your throat, irritating the tissue.
Sore throatThe combination of a dry and itchy throat, particularly over a prolonged period of time such as throughout the seasonal allergies season, often causes the throat tissues to become inflamed this is experienced as a sore throat.
What Causes Cold Sores
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus . There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both virus types can cause sores around the mouth and on the genitals .
The herpes simplex virus usually enters the body through a break in the skin around or inside the mouth. It is usually spread when a person touches a cold sore or touches infected fluidsuch as from sharing eating utensils or razors, kissing an infected person, or touching that person’s saliva. A parent who has a cold sore often spreads the infection to his or her child in this way. A person can spread the virus to someone else a few days before the sore appears until the sore is completely healed. Cold sores can also be spread to other areas of the body.
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Fever And Allergies Symptoms
The most common sign that you have an allergy is that it is short-lived and persists only as long as you are exposed to the allergen. If your symptoms persist, it may be that you have the flu or the common cold since they typically last longer.
However, itchy and watery eyes, which are common in allergies, are not signs of the flu or a cold.
Signs & Symptoms Of Cold Sores
Cold sores will typically pass through four distinct phases over their lifespan:
- Itching – this will occur for a day or two before there is any visible sign of the cold sore.
- Tiny blisters break out around the edges of the lips or within the nasal lining.
- After a number of days, the blisters break to release their fluid.
- An open sore results that will eventually crust over and disappear
This process usually happens over a 7-10 day period.
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What Causes Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen as if it were harmful.
This results in cells releasing a number of chemicals that cause the inside layer of your nose to become swollen and too much mucus to be produced.
Common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis include pollen , as well as mould spores, house dust mites, and flakes of skin or droplets of urine or saliva from certain animals.
Allergies Rarely Cause Sore Throats Or Body Aches
The only ache you may feel with allergies is a headache from all that congestion. Your throat may also feel dry or scratching. But if youre experiencing a sore throat or mild body aches, theyre more likely a sign of a bad cold.
Can allergies cause chills? No. If you have chills, its more likely you have a cold, the flu or another infection .
Is It Allergies Or A Cold
Cold and allergy symptoms often overlap, so its easy to mistake cold symptoms for allergies, and vice versa. Understanding the cause of your symptoms helps you choose the right treatment. It also gives you a better picture of your overall health.
Clinicians use the 5 factors below to help distinguish between colds and allergies.
How To Treat A Sore Throat From Allergies
According to Dr. Burgert, you can treat allergy-induced sore throat with over-the counter-pain medication like Tylenol or Motrin. Even better, you can eliminate the cause of the sore throat with antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra. Steroid nasal sprays can also decrease the production of watery mucus.
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Triggers Of Nasal Allergies
- Cause. An allergic reaction of the nose and sinuses to an inhaled substance. The medical name for this is allergic rhinitis. The allergic substance is called an allergen.
- Most allergens float in the air. That’s how they get in the nose. Here are the common ones:
- Pollens. Trees, grass, weeds and molds are the most common pollens. Tree pollens come in the spring. Grass pollens come in the summer. Weed pollens come in the fall. Pollens cause seasonal allergies. You can’t avoid pollens because they are in the air. Most nasal allergies continue through the pollen season. They can last 4 to 8 weeks. Pollens cause seasonal allergic rhinitis. This is also called hay fever.
- Pets. Allergens can also be from cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and other animals. Most people don’t keep a pet that they are allergic to. They only have sporadic allergy symptoms when they are exposed to that specific animal. These symptoms will usually last a few hours. If someone with a cat visits you, they will bring cat dander with them. This will cause brief symptoms. If you own the pet, though, your child will have symptoms all the time.
- House Dust. House dust contains many allergens. It always contains dust mites. If your humidity is high, it will contain mold. House dust causes year round, daily symptoms. The medical name for this is perennial allergic rhinitis.
How To Prevent Cold Sores
If you have the herpes simplex virus, there is a likelihood that you will suffer from cold sores at some stage. However, there are practical precautions you can take to lessen the chances. These include washing your hands regularly. If you touch a cold sore or any type of open sore, you should immediately wash your hands.
Avoid rubbing your eyes. If you do have a cold sore, you must never rub an eye after touching the cold sore. This could lead to ocular herpes, which can be very serious.
You should also replace your toothbrush regularly. In addition, avoid kissing a person who has a cold sore. Neither should you use that persons grooming equipment, such as a razor, toothbrush or flannel. You can also reduce your chances of getting a cold sore by applying sunscreen if you are planning to be out in the sun for an extended period of time.
Another common sense precaution is to avoid sharing food and liquids with other people. HSV-1 may exist in saliva, so not sharing things that go into another persons mouth will lessen transfer potential.
Reducing your stress levels by practicing mindfulness and getting regular exercise will also help you to reduce your cold sore risk factors.
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Critical Cold Sore Stages You Need To Know
The first sign that a cold sore may be on its way is a tingling sensation that may be accompanied by itchiness. If you can detect an onset and start treatment before blisters appear, you have a much better chance of reducing the severity and length of the cold sore.
Within 24-48 hours of first noticing the tingling, you will develop a fluid filled blister. The area surrounding the blister will be red. This will usually remain for 48-72 hours, after which the blister will break.
The blister will now transform itself into an open red sore. After a few days, the sore will take on a browny/yellow tinge and begin to crust over.
The final stage will see the sore healing itself, with the crusty covering flaking off. In the vast majority of cases, there will be no scar.
How To Treat Or Manage Your Symptoms
Home treatments and plans are available to help reduce your symptoms. You can reduce the chances of coming in contact with dust and mold by cleaning and airing out your rooms regularly. For outdoor allergies, you can download Poncho, a weather app that tells you what the pollen count is, as well as the wind speed.
Other lifestyle changes include:
- keeping windows closed to prevent pollen from coming in
- wearing sunglasses to cover your eyes when youre outdoors
- using a dehumidifier to control mold
- washing hands after petting animals or interacting with them in an airy space
To relieve congestion, try using a neti pot or saline sprays. These options can also reduce postnasal drip, which contributes to sore throats.
Treatment options for children include:
- eye drops
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How Are Cold Sores Transmitted
Cold sores are typically spread through kissing and oral sex. HSV-1 is transmitted through touching affected skin that contains the virus or secretions, like saliva. HSV-1 can penetrate closed, healthy skin on your lips and genitals since the skin in those areas is very delicate, says Dr. Anthony.
Previously, people thought HSV-1 was limited to the mouth area, and the related strain, HSV-2, was the one to worry about on the genitals. And its true that HSV-1 is usually oral while HSV-2 is typically on genitals. But doctors now know that both types of herpes can infect either location, reports Dr. Anthony.
The bottom line: HSV-1 can make its home in both the oral or genital areas. You can get cold sores from coming into contact with the virus in various ways:
How You Can Tell The Difference Between Allergies Cold Flu And Covid
Eyes watering? Runny nose? Feel like your head is locked in an ever-tighter vice?
Sounds like the start of seasonal allergies, maybe a cold or flu . . . but not COVID-19.
To keep anxiety levels down, and reduce the crush on local healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic, its important to know the difference between seasonal allergies or other illness and the more serious COVID-19.
This novel coronavirus causes a respiratory illness manifested by fever, cough and difficulty breathing, said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, the chief of infectious diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.
Pay particular attention to that combination of three symptoms. Less frequently, says the World Health Organization, a COVID-19 infection can produce symptoms similar to the flu like aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion or diarrhea.
Allergies, unlike coronavirus, do not cause a fever and seldom shortness of breath. Yet the sneezing, runny nose, congestion and itchy, watery eyes are more than an inconvenience. Sometimes allergy sufferers dont know whether theyre suffering from seasonal allergies, a nasty cold or even asthma that might require a doctors attention.
A cold usually reveals itself gradually. The flu can hit like an anvil.
Flu symptoms will permeate the entire body, says Dr. Bieluch.
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