Comparing the Common Cold with Allergies

Allergies and colds are, of course, caused by completely different sources. Symptoms from allergies are caused by allergens, which set off reactions in your immune system. Symptoms from a cold are caused by a virus. However, symptoms from both conditions can often resemble each other.

Despite the common symptoms, treatment can differ, so it’s important to recognize if you have a cold or an allergy. Read the following tips provided by Dr. Ulrike Ziegner at Riviera Allergy Medical Center in Redondo Beach, California, to learn the differences.

Common conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that American adults get 2-3 colds per year on average. Children tend to get colds more often. Allergies affect about 50 million people in the country, so they, too, are also common. With numbers like these, it logically follows that many people suffer from both conditions.

Symptom similarities

Both colds and allergies can produce sneezing, stuffiness, and a runny nose. Both conditions can also leave you feeling tired and run down. Coughs tend to accompany colds more often, but they can also be a problem with allergy attacks.

Symptom differences

Fever is never caused by seasonal allergies, so if your temperature is elevated, it’s a good bet you have a cold. Similarly, if you have aches and pains throughout your body, a cold is the likely culprit. Postnasal drip accompanying allergy congestion might cause some soreness in your throat, but it’s not common, so a sore throat usually suggests a cold. If your eyes are itchy, it’s more likely due to allergies. Furthermore, if your symptoms last more than two weeks without improvement, chances are higher that the cause is allergies.

Treating allergies and colds

The common respiratory symptoms between allergies and colds can each be treated with over-the-counter decongestants and, if necessary, pain medication. Cold and allergy formulas are a common sight on pharmacy shelves. These may help you breathe easier, regardless of the source of your symptoms.

The common cold has no cure, so it must run its course, which is generally 1-2 weeks. All you can do with colds is ease your symptoms with over-the-counter medications and home treatment, such as rest and staying hydrated.

There are more options available to treat allergy symptoms. Antihistamines, both over-the-counter and prescription, can block some or all of the effects of the substances that cause allergic reactions. Nasal sprays that contain corticosteroids can reduce swelling of nasal tissue, which can ease congestion symptoms caused by allergies.  However, none of these remedies will prevent the cascade of allergic reactions but rather suppress the allergy symptoms caused by it.

Preventive Treatments

Testing can identify the specific substances you’re allergic to. Allergy shots can help your body build natural  resistance and tolerate these allergens, resulting in a true cure to prevent allergic reactions. The common cold is more difficult to avoid, since it can be transmitted through the air or by touching the same surfaces that a person with a cold touches. Washing your hands, using hand sanitizers, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth may improve your chances of avoiding catching a cold.

If you suspect you are suffering from allergies, book an appointment online or over the phone with Riviera Allergy Medical Center today.

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