Do you have a cold right now? Did you have one last fall? Think back over the times that you had colds in the past several years – always in the spring or fall? If so, maybe you’re not catching a cold every change of seasons. Maybe you have seasonal allergies.

According to James M. Steckelberg, M.D., you should consider that you may have allergies if you tend to get colds at the same time every year and if these “colds” seem to develop suddenly. It’s important to know whether you’re getting colds or you have allergies because they’re very different illnesses. Because the symptoms of both colds and allergies can cause coughing and congestion, it’s especially important If you have COPD to know what you’re dealing with and to treat it correctly.

What we call colds are really a constellation of symptoms caused by viruses. Allergies are symptoms created by your own immune system in response to the presence of allergens.

If you, in fact, have a cold, you should treat it by getting rest and taking pain relievers and over-the-counter decongestants or other cold remedies. A cold will typically run its course in three to ten days.

If on the other hand, you are experiencing an allergy flare-up, you should first avoid exposure to the triggering allergen if at all possible, and you should treat your symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, and decongestants. Allergy symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Here is a checklist of symptoms and their probable causes, based on findings of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2014:

Symptom                                Cold                            Allergy

Cough                                     Usually                        Sometimes

General aches and pains         Sometimes                  Never

Fatigue and weakness             Sometimes                  Sometimes

Itchy eyes                                Rarely                          Usually

Sneezing                                 Usually                        Usually

Sore throat                              Usually                        Rarely

Runny nose                             Usually                        Usually

Stuffy nose                              Usually                        Usually

Fever                                       Rarely                          Never

Information for this article was obtained from the Mayo Clinic.

Are Your “Regular Colds” Really Allergies?
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