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How To Know When It’s Allergies Or A Cold

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But Timberlake said that when youre trying to figure out whats ailing you, its best to err on the side of caution and assume that its a viral infection until proven otherwise.

I advise people if you have a new runny nose, if youre newly congested, if youre having any of those symptoms, its probably best at least at the beginning of those symptoms to go ahead and get that COVID test to make sure that were not dealing with COVID, he said.

Timberlake said the flu is expected to pick up this year, especially compared to last season year. Wisconsins influenza cases are minimal so far this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A lot of the precautions that we took from COVID, we really saw a decrease in all respiratory viruses, including influenza, he said.

Influenza is tougher to differentiate from COVID-19 because a lot of the symptoms are the same: fever, chills, muscle aches, runny and congested nose and coughing.

Prevea Healths symptom checker for adults and children identify some subtle differences between influenza and COVID-19, particularly that COVID-19 causes loss of taste or smell and that shortness of breath is rare for those with influenza.

Additionally, the flu will come on suddenly one to four days after exposure, while COVID-19 typically shows up after five days.

Do You Have A Cold The Flu Or Allergies

The above table details the symptom differences between all three conditions.

The common symptoms of a cold, flu and allergies are a stuffy or a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or even fatigue. Two differing symptoms are a fever or aches/pain, these would not be caused by allergies, but could be due to a cold or the flu. Symptoms of the flu are often more severe than a cold.

While the symptoms are similar, the origin of the conditions are different. A cold and the flu are both caused by different viruses, whereas allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a trigger. Common inhalant allergy triggers are pollen, dust, mold, pet dander.

See related: Is it a cold? Or is it Allergies?

Similar Symptoms Different Causes

To understand the difference between a cold and allergies, it is important to know that some cold symptoms are actually the same as some allergy symptoms. Plus, everyone experiences colds and allergies a little differently. Its no wonder why it can be challenging to figure out exactly whats going on.

Read Also: Can You Get Swollen Glands From Allergies

When Should You Get Tested

“One of the biggest things is you want to avoid self-diagnosing. That means if you’re displaying any symptoms, you want to go ahead and get tested,” Torres said. And, again, you should assume you have COVID-19 until your test says otherwise.

When you get tested, depending on your symptoms and what your COVID-19 test results are, you might also get tested for the flu or strep throat.

You can also get more than one illness at a time , or you can get allergies alongside COVID-19 or another condition. “What I tell people is, ‘We’re in a pandemic. Test for COVID. Rule it out first and then think about the other things,'” Torres said.

How To Treat Allergies And A Cold

Cold, flu, allergies or COVID

Allergies are caused by your bodys immune system responding to a commonplace trigger, like pollen or cat dander. To fight off the trigger, your immune system releases chemicals called histamines that cause an allergic reaction.

To treat allergies, youll need to either avoid the trigger altogether or take medications, like antihistamines, to counteract your immune systems response. Antihistamines help by blocking the effect of histamines, hence the term antihistamine. This, in turn, helps relieve your symptoms.

Some people need to stay on antihistamines long term if they have year-round allergies, Arthur adds.

A cold is caused by a virus. Theres no cure that can treat the virus, but there are medications that can relieve your symptoms. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and reduce your fever, while decongestants will reduce congestion. Get rest and drink a lot of fluids.

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Treating Seasonal Allergies In Children

  • Minimize symptoms at home by washing clothes after being outside, vacuuming often and using air filters and purifiers.
  • Try a non-sedating oral antihistamine, such as Zyrtec or Claritin. Your child should get relief within a day or two.
  • If the antihistamine helps, but not much, add a nasal steroid such as over-the-counter Flonase which you spray into the nose. Sometimes you need both antihistamine and nasal spray to control allergies.
  • You can also try nasal spray only. If your child gets relief, skip the oral antihistamine.

Keep Track Of How Long You’ve Felt Symptoms

In addition to identifying what your symptoms are, keep track of how quickly they came on and how long they’ve lasted. This is also helpful to figure out whether you have allergies or a cold.

Often a person will feel OK for long periods before the cold’s nasal and throat symptoms fully set in, Cutler says. And a cold typically lasts three to 10 days although it can stick around for several weeks according to the Mayo Clinic.

So while your body will eventually recover from a cold in 7 to 10 days, you’ll continue to suffer from allergies as long as you’re exposed to what’s triggering them. And that brings us to the final clue: the season.

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Sorting Out Your Cold And Allergy Symptoms

The reason people have such a hard time telling the difference between colds and allergies is the number of overlapping symptoms. Colds come and go, but if your cold symptoms are actually allergies, you can take steps to overcome them. With a little information, learn to decipher the signs and get the right treatment.

Is It A Cold Or Allergies How To Tell The Difference

Does My Child Have a Cold or Allergies?

Sneezing, congestion, and runny nose-these are all classic symptoms of both a cold and allergies, making it difficult to self-diagnose and treat either at home. But despite their similar symptoms, an allergic reaction is quite different from the common cold. By learning the subtle differences between the two, you can relieve your symptoms faster-shortening your days of sniffling. “Allergies are the immune system reacting to something that is normally harmless to most people-think: pollen, dog dander, and mold,” says Lakiea Wright, M.D., M.A.T., M.P.H., board-certified internist, allergist, and immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and medical director of U.S. Clinical Affairs at Thermo Fisher Scientific. When you encounter allergens, your body sees them as a threat, and “reacts by releasing a chemical called histamine,” Wright explains. “Ultimately, this causes the allergic reaction and symptoms.”

A cold, on the other hand, is always caused by a virus that enters the body through the eyes, mouth, or nose, or by touching contaminated people or objects, such as shaking the hand of someone with a cold. “This means a cold can be contagious, while allergies cannot, and symptoms of a cold could become severe, including a fever and body aches,” says Wright. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two after you’re already sniffling and sneezy.


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You Notice A Seasonal Pattern

If youre the type of person who swears they get the same cold every March, it might be time to reconsider. If you notice its seasonal like clockwork, and every spring or fall you get these symptoms, it might be allergy-related, Dr. Parikh says.

That holds true even if your seasonal symptoms occur earlier than you might think of as allergy season, Dr. Rosenstreich says. In the Northeast, for example, most people are not aware of the fact that the trees begin to pollinate even when theres still snow on the ground. Depending on the weather, people can have allergy symptoms in February.

by Norman Lester, MD, OtolaryngologistSeptember 11, 2017

It can be tough to tell the difference between a cold, a bacterial sinus infection and allergies. In fact, thats probably one of the questions people ask doctors most frequently in this country. Theres a lot of confusion about what the signs are for these conditionsfrom patients and their doctors alike.

Recognizing the variations between these three conditions is important. The treatment strategies for a cold are unlike those for a bacterial sinus infection. And treatment for allergies is different still than treatment for the other two.

Lets go through the symptoms that people often are confused about, as well as the process of deciding which condition a patient may have and what we need to do about it.

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When Do Symptoms Appear

While allergies and colds share similar symptoms, recording exactly when those symptoms first appear can help you narrow down what you’re suffering from. “Keeping track of your symptom history, such as when and where symptoms occur, and for how long, is an important clue to help identify the main cause,” Wright says. With allergies, symptoms may appear during peak pollen season-or after a visit to a friend’s pet-filled house. On the flip side, symptoms that appear gradually over a day or two can point to a cold. “When symptoms occur suddenly or out of nowhere, an allergy is most likely to be the cause,” explains Wright.

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Signs Your Cold Symptoms Actually Stem From An Allergy

If youre coughing and sneezing and have a sore throat, and youre like most people, youre probably confused about what your symptoms mean. Is it a cold? Allergies? Something worse?

Here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care, those are some of the most common questions we get. The symptoms of colds and allergies are so similar, its hard to tell the difference.

Dr. James Lee, our experienced family physician, can help you understand the unique aspects of each so you can know whether your cold symptoms are actually allergy symptoms.

What Are Colds And Allergies

Sneezing and Sniffling: How to Tell If It

They have different causes. You get a cold when a tiny living thing called a virus gets into your body. There are hundreds of different types that can get you sick.

Once a cold virus gets inside you, your immune system, the body’s defense against germs, launches a counter-attack. It’s this response that brings on the classic symptoms like a cough or stuffed up nose.

The viruses that cause colds are contagious. You can pick them up when someone who’s infected sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. After a couple of weeks, at the most, your immune system fights off the illness and you should stop having symptoms.

It’s a different story with allergies. They’re caused by an overactive immune system. For some reason, your body mistakes harmless things, such as dust or pollen, for germs and mounts an attack on them.

When that happens, your body releases chemicals such as histamine, just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause a swelling in the passageways of your nose, and you’ll start sneezing and coughing.

Unlike colds, allergies aren’t contagious, though some people may inherit a tendency to get them.

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Know Your Paths To Care

Were here to help you get better quickly, with tools and information for self-care and convenient options for visits or advice when you need it. Easy ways to get help for your cold or allergy symptoms include:

  • Consulting Nurse Service: Call a nurse, who will assess your symptoms and recommend treatments or other next steps. Available 24/7.
  • Online visit: Complete a questionnaire about your symptoms. A clinician will provide a diagnosis, treatment plan and, if needed, a prescription without a trip to your doctors office.
  • CareClinic by Kaiser Permanente at Bartell Drugs:Walk in for care at 15 Puget Sound Bartell Drugs locations. Open 7 days a week with evening and weekend hours.

Diagnosing Colds And Allergies

You dont need to see your doctor for a cold, but if you do make an appointment, your symptoms will likely be enough for them to confirm your diagnosis.

If your doctor thinks you might have a bacterial infection such as strep throat or pneumonia, you might need other tests such as a throat culture or chest X-ray.

For allergies, you may need to see a primary care doctor, an ear-nose-throat doctor, or an allergist. The doctor will first ask about your symptoms. Severe or life-threatening allergic reactions often require the care of an allergy specialist.

A variety of tests can be used to diagnose allergies. A skin test can be used to determine your allergy triggers. Sometimes primary doctors or allergy specialists may also use blood tests to diagnose allergies depending on your age and other health conditions.

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Cold Vs Allergy In Children: How To Tell The Difference

Colds are infections of the upper respiratory tract . They are caused by several different viruses. They are spread by:

  • Touching a person with a cold

  • Touching an object that someone with a cold has touched

  • Breathing the virus in the air after someone with a cold has coughed or sneezed into the air

Seasonal allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds as if it were harmful to the body. This reaction causes symptoms that can seem like a cold. Allergies often run in families. Seasonal allergies occur at the same time each year. If your child has allergy symptoms all year, they may be allergic to things in the home. These can include dust mites, animals, mold, and cockroaches.

The table below is a guide to symptoms. See your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.


Can I Prevent Myself From Getting Allergy Symptoms

How To Tell If It’s Coronavirus, The Flu, A Cold, Or Allergies

In terms of preventing allergic reactions, the first step is to find out what youre allergic to. Doctors who specialize in allergy and immunology can help patients discover what might be causing their specific allergies with skin, patch, and blood tests. For example, sometimes its difficult to know if your allergy trigger is pollen, pets, mold spores, or a combination of different triggers. Once you have an understanding of your allergy trigger, its best to avoid contact with them as much as possible. Depending on the category of allergy that you have, you may want to try the following:

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Pay Attention To Symptom Differences

It’s true: A cold and allergies do share many symptoms, such as a runny nose and sneezing, but there are a few distinctive symptoms that don’t overlap between the two. For example, allergies can’t cause a fever-only a cold can do that. And while colds can cause headaches and muscle aches, it’s very rare for allergies to do so, says Wright. What’s more, while you can experience a cough when suffering a cold or allergies, a cough caused by allergies is most often a dry cough without mucus. ” is a direct reaction to something your sensitive to in the airway,” Wright explains. “Coughs from colds tend to be on the wetter side-that ‘wetness’ is actually mucus your body is trying to move out of your body.” And itchy, watery eyes and an itchy nose are almost always caused by allergies, Wright adds.

If you suspect you suffer from allergies, you may want to consider getting an allergy test, Wright suggests. “Every spring millions of people seek out allergy relief through over-the-counter drugs without really knowing their diagnosis,” she says. “But we’ve seen firsthand how life-changing it can be when you finally know what is causing those problems with breathing, itching, rashes, or congestion.” Your primary care physician may be able to administer one-and if he or she can’t, he or she should recommend an allergist to do so.

How Long Do Symptoms Last

A cold can take a week or two to clear up. Allergies, on the other hand, can dissipate as soon as you remove yourself from the environment causing your symptoms-like a home with cat hair-or can persist for months if you’re reacting to a change in the season, Wright says. “You should start to recover from a cold in a week or two,” she reiterates. “If symptoms last longer than that, you could be continuously exposed to an allergen that you’re reacting to.”

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Clear Signs You Have Seasonal Allergies

Dont confuse allergies with a head cold.

For some people, just the thought of being outside during spring or summer makes them want to sneeze.

Some people love spring and summer: Blooming flowers, warm sunshine and chirping birds are a welcome arrival for many people after the dark and cold winter months. For about 8% of American adults, though, the change of seasons spells misery.

Those 20 million people deal with allergic rhinitis, or seasonal allergies, a condition caused when your immune system reacts to something in the environment. In most cases, that something is pollen from trees, grasses and weeds.

Commonly called hay fever, seasonal allergies actually have nothing to do with hay or fevers. That misnomer comes from a long-gone era when symptoms would strike during hay harvests in late summer and early fall, before medical professionals knew what allergies were.

Think you might have seasonal allergies? See how your symptoms match up against these four big signs.

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