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What Are The Different Symptoms Between A Cold And Allergies

How You Can Tell The Difference Between Allergies Cold Flu And Covid

The Difference Between Spring Allergies and Cold Symptoms

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.

Exposure To Certain Substances Can Worsen Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms typically get worse with more frequent exposure to the allergen, and they improve when exposure is reduced. For example, say a child has a dust mite allergy. Theyll likely experience sneezing and nasal congestion while inside their home, but the symptoms will improve after spending time in the backyard, says Dr. Jain. Because of this, allergy symptoms can be intermittent and may vary throughout the day and week.

How To Treat Allergies

Allergy treatment aims to mitigate your response to the allergen and reduce your symptoms. The best allergy treatment is to avoid what causes your allergies in the first place. However, this is not always possible. In those instances, there are two types of allergy treatments that can help ease your symptoms: medications and immunotherapy.

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When Did You Begin To Feel Unwell

If you remember being around someone who had an upper respiratory infection a few days before you started feeling ill, you may have caught a viral infection. Viruses are spread by contact with sneezes, coughs, and contaminated surfaces such as door handles. Allergies, on the other hand, can begin immediately after coming in contact with triggers such as pollen. If you think you might be experiencing a seasonal allergy, check the pollen count in your area if levels are high, allergies may be the culprit.

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Notice What Time Of Year It Is


A common allergy for many is hay fever, which is an allergy to plant pollen. It will usually strike from February through June when blooming plants distribute their pollen. But the exact timing can vary depending on when plants bloom and release pollen. To suss out if the pollen counts are high where you live, check out the pollen map on the National Allergy Bureau website.

If sniffles hit during the wintertime and particularly if people around you have similar symptoms odds are you have a cold or the flu, not allergies, Arthur says.

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Taking The Right Medication For The Right Illness

The best thing to do for cold or sinus symptoms during the first seven to 10 days is to treat the symptoms, not the illness. You can do this with medications such as:

  • Cough medicine
  • Pain reliever

Cold viruses dont respond to antibiotics, so taking them during the first seven days probably wont help. In fact, taking antibiotics when theyre not needed can increase your risk for being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or other serious antibiotic related problems.

After seven to 10 days, when the symptoms are more likely to indicate a sinus infection, it may be time to ask your doctor about antibiotics. However, sinus infections can and do sometimes go away on their own, just like colds. Ask your doctor if you need an antibiotic or if the infection is likely to go away on its own without medication.

If your symptoms point to allergies, many effective medications are available over the counter to control symptoms, such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. These medications work on all sorts of allergies because they suppress the bodys reactions to allergens, rather than treating the specific allergen. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, however, so be cautious of that when taking them. They also do not help stuffiness or pressure symptoms, so adding a decongestant plus a pain reliever as needed can help you ride it out.

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A Pediatrician Shares Eight Ways To Tell The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies

If your child seems to constantly have a runny nose, cough or congestion, you are not alone.

Its not unusual for kids to get six to eight colds per year, lasting from 10-14 days, explains Michael Lee, M.D., a pediatrician with Childrens Health. Additionally, seasonal allergies have become more prevalent.

So how can parents tell if its a cold or allergies? Dr. Lee explains the difference between causes and symptoms in kids.

Related podcast

Learn more about how to help a child with seasonal allergies by listening to the Childrens Health Checkup podcast.

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Covid Cases In New England

In New England, current case counts are relatively low compared to other parts of the United States, but cases are rising in every state as the 7-day average for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

During the past week, there were 7,395 cases in Massachusetts, 3,474 cases in Connecticut, 1,554 cases in Rhode Island, 1,050 cases in New Hampshire, 949 cases in Maine, and 586 cases in Vermont.

But Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said Tuesday that he expects to hear about other breakthrough infection hotspots like Provincetown.

“I don’t believe it’s the only one because we’re seeing similar findings in Israel and South Africa and other places in the world. So it is likely we will see more outbreaks in fully vaccinated individuals,” he said during a virtual event hosted by the Massachusetts High Technology Council. “But so far, vaccines are still doing a very good job of keeping people out of the hospital and keeping people from dying, and that’s really, I think, an incredible testament to how good the vaccines are in the setting of what is now a more deadly and a more fearsome foe, called the Delta variant, than what we had previously.”

CDC study of Provincetown COVID outbreak:74% of Massachusetts visitors infected were fully vaccinated

How To Know For Sure If Its A Cold Or Allergies

Difference Between Spring Allergy & Cold Symptoms

There are no tests necessary for the common cold. If you cant diagnose a cold yourself, Dr. Lee can help you come to the right conclusion and make sure you have what you need to reduce your symptoms until your cold goes away.

Meanwhile, you can treat the cold symptoms you have with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, tea with honey for a sore throat, and staying well hydrated and well rested.

If you have symptoms of allergies, Dr. Lee can perform a series of skin tests to identify the precise allergen. Once we find the culprit, Dr. Lee develops an immunotherapy treatment to help build your bodys resistance to the allergens so you can eventually overcome your allergies.

Whether you have a cold, allergies, or any other health concerns, you can count on Dr. Lee and our team here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care to provide you with a quick and accurate diagnosis so you can get healthy and stay healthy.

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Despite Symptoms Its Not The Flu

COVID-19 is not the flu.

As one of a class of pathogens known as coronaviruses, its actually more closely related to the common cold than the seasonal flu.

However, despite some overlap, the typical symptoms of COVID-19 are more similar to the flu than the common cold .

The new delta variant of COVID-19, however, may have more cold-like symptoms.

In terms of differentiating between flu and COVID-19, it can be almost impossible to distinguish, Dr. Jake Deutsch, co-founder and clinical director of Cure Urgent Care centers and Specialty Infusion in New York. Thats why people are recommended to have flu vaccinations so it can at least minimize the risk of flu in light of everything else.

Fevers, body aches, coughing, sneezing could all be equally attributed to them both, so it really means that if theres a concern for flu, theres a concern for COVID-19, Deutsch said.

If you have a mild case of COVID-19, the flu, or a cold, treatment is geared toward management of symptoms, said Cutler.

Generally, acetaminophen is recommended for fevers, he said. Cough drops and cough syrups can also help keep mucus secretions thinner. If there is associated nasal congestion, antihistamines may be useful.

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.


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What Are The Symptoms For A Cold

Like COVID, the symptoms of a cold, are often coughing, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, tiredness and sometimes a fever. Symptoms usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus.

Unlike COVID, a cold is usually harmless and cold-sufferers generally recover in three to 10 days.

Cold Vs Allergies: Different But They Are Both A Pain

Know the difference between a cold and the flu

Colds are not allergies, and allergies are not colds. Some treatments can keep the symptoms at bay, and those treatments are different. Unfortunately, theres not a cure for either. However, you can stave off the symptoms if you know which one you have. Regardless, you may want to stock up on tissues.

:Faris, S. and Cherney, K., Is It Allergies or a Cold? Healthline, July 7, 2015 .Leicht, L., Do I Have a Cold or Allergies? 6 Telltale Signs, Daily Burn, April 30, 2016 .de Pietro, M., Cold or Allergies? How to Tell the Difference, Medical News Today, February 12, 2017 .

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How Do Allergies Develop

Did you know? In most cases, the part of the body the allergen touches affects what symptoms you develop. For example:Allergens that you breathe in often cause a stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, mucus production, cough, or wheezing.Allergens that touch the eyes may cause itchy, watery, red, swollen eyes.

How To Treat A Cold Vs A Sinus Infection

Theres no medication cure or vaccine for the common cold. Instead, treatment should focus on managing symptoms.

Congestion can often be relieved by using a saline spray in each nostril a couple of times a day. A nasal decongestant, such as oxymetazoline , may also be helpful. But you shouldnt use it for more than three days.

If you have a headache, or body aches and pains, you may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.

For a sinus infection, saline or decongestant nasal spray may help with congestion. You may also be prescribed a corticosteroid, usually in a nasal spray form. A pill form may be necessary in certain cases in order to help reduce severely inflamed sinuses.

If your doctor thinks you may have a bacterial infection, you may be prescribed a course of antibiotic therapy. This should be taken exactly as prescribed and for the duration recommended by your doctor.

Stopping a course of antibiotics too soon can allow an infection to linger and for symptoms to develop again.

For both a sinus infection and a common cold, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

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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 .

Could My Cold Symptoms Actually Be Allergies

The Difference Between The Common Cold, The Flu, and Allergies

Could my cold symptoms actually be allergies? This is a great question because the common cold and allergies share similar symptoms. Yet, these two conditions require different treatment, thus it is important to know which one is affecting you. Lets review in this article the similarities and differences between a cold and an allergy.

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Allergies Follow A Pattern And Symptoms Tend To Stick Around Longer

If you have allergies, your symptoms will flare up at certain times throughout the year when the allergens youre sensitive to are present. For example, if you have a tree pollen allergy, your symptoms will first appear in the early spring.

This also means that your symptoms can last for several weeks until that particular allergy season has ended. To put that into perspective, colds usually only last about a week.

Cold viruses are present all year, so you can catch one at any time. However, the winter cold season is when getting sick is more likely.

How To Treat Allergies And A Cold

Allergies are caused by your body’s 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, you’ll need to either avoid the trigger altogether or take medications, like antihistamines, to counteract your immune system’s 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. There’s 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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What Are The Symptoms For The Flu

More or less the same thing, except for the loss of taste or smell.

COVID-19 symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after exposure to the coronavirus. Influenza symptoms start to show up about on e to four days after exposure to an influenza virus.

But COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people than the flu, as well as complications such as blood clots, lasting respiratory problems.

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So Who Should Get Tested For Covid

Allergies, Cold, Flu or COVID

Here’s what Dhar recommends:

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Most people who have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
  • Unvaccinated people who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance to avoid exposure, such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor settings.
  • People who have been asked or referred to get tested by their health care provider, or health department.

The CDC recently recommended that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 be tested three to five days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public, indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

Dhar, who responded to questions from the Free Press in an email, noted that the CDC recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.

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Its Probably Allergies If:

Your mucus is clear or watery. And it will stay clear, instead of becoming thick or discolored like it can with a cold, says Michael Benninger, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Your eyes are itchy or watery. Its rare to have itchy eyes when you have a cold.

Your symptoms stay the same.Allergies may feel extra intense for the first day or 2, but youll have the same symptoms day after day, Benninger says.

Youve had the sniffles for more than a week. A cold usually clears up in 7 to 10 days, but allergies can last several weeks or longer.

Your symptoms show up only in certain situations. Find yourself sneezing every spring or fall? Those are common times for allergies. Another allergy tip-off: Being in a specific place makes you feel miserable for example, in a house with a cat.


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