cold or allergy

Cold or Allergy: Which is it?

Do you easily get cold often? For your information, cold is one of the most common health conditions among us, the humans. And if you suffer from cough and cold around same time every year, there is a possibility that what you allergic to certain weather-borne conditions. In both the scenarios, symptoms may be common, but their effects on your health in long term are quite different.

The common cold is caused by a virus. The seasonal cold, on the other hand, is your immune system responding when your body is exposed to certain allergens – seasonal plants or flowers, animals (fur) pollen, and so on.

To treat common cold, there isn’t much you can actually do, other than probably take decongestant medicines, take rest, drink plenty of fluids, inhale steam, use a humidifier, and so on. In fact, most doctors joke that with medicines, your cold will be gone in a week, but without them, it may last 7 whole days! A cold usually lasts 3 to 10 days. In some cases, it may take longer, up to 2-3 weeks.

To treat seasonal allergies, you may need to take anti-histamine medications, decongestants, steroid sprays – not to mention doing your best to avoid those allergens. A seasonal allergy can last for many weeks – especially if the allergen remains in the air.

Symptom check

Symptom Cold Allergy
Cough Usually Rare
Aches and Pains Sometimes Never
Fatigue and weakness Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy, watery eyes Rarely Usually
Sore throat Usually Rarely
Fever Sometimes Never
Stuffy nose Usually Usually
Runny nose Usually Usually

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that adults usually get a cold 2-3 times a year, and children more often.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that around 50 million people in the US have allergies.

The above table shows the different instances of cold and allergies. Both the conditions have different causes. Their symptoms not only differ in types but also in duration. Both colds and allergies can affect the respiratory system

It is important to know whether an individual has a cold or allergy, so that the most appropriate treatment can be provided for the best outcomes.

A congested nose and post nasal drip may be seen commonly in colds and allergies – but irritated, itchy eyes that water are usually a typical indication of an allergy. Painful sinuses are also more commonly seen in colds, though you may develop the condition during an allergy attack. If you experience eczema, you are almost certain to have an allergy.

It is important to note also, how quickly the symptoms appeared. If it was a sudden onset of sneezing and nasal congestion, it’s more likely to be an allergic reaction. But if your nose got congested gradually, along with a sore throat and so on, it is more likely be the common cold. As mentioned earlier, cold usually tends to go away in a week, or maximum two weeks. Allergies can last much longer.

Cold

Understanding what each condition involves can help identify whether it’s a cold or an allergy.

More than 200 subtypes of viruses can cause a cold – rhinovirus being the most common of all. Colds are contagious, and can be transmitted from one person to another when the infected person sneezes or coughs, as they expel virus filled droplets into the air. It can also spread through sharing objects with an infected person or touching surfaces contaminated by cold virus.

Colds are generally more common in the winter, but they may develop other times, too. People with a weakened immune system are more likely to catch it, and have colds more frequently. Complications of cold may include:

  • Otitis media or ear infection, ear ache
  • Asthma
  • Acute sinusitis
  • Strep throat, pneumonia, croup or bronchiolitis (secondary infections)

Allergies

An allergy is not caused by a virus; rather, it is the response of the body’s immune system to certain substances which are not harmful per se, but which are perceived by the body as harmful. Allergies are not contagious – you cannot infect another individual with an allergic sneeze. The body releases certain substances like histamines to fight the ‘invader’; it is histamine that is responsible for most of the common symptoms of allergy.

Treatment

Over the counter medications are available for both health conditions; however, if the symptoms do not diminish or go away, you must see your EPIC Primary Care physician.

We have already seen how colds are treated. When it comes to allergies, anti-histamines are prescribed. Though, it is not recommended that you take them very often. Doing so, you might be suppressing your immune system. Decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, etc. can provide temporary symptomatic relief in allergies as well. In extreme cases like anaphylaxis, the patient may require a shot of epinephrine or adrenalin – otherwise, the patient’s life could be endangered; however, this is rarely seen in seasonal allergies.

The best way to combat allergies is prevention. The allergen needs to be identified and that’s how you can avoid it as much as possible.

Allergy Testing at EPIC Primary Care

At EPIC Primary Care, we offer comprehensive allergy testing services to our patients. If you experience seasonal allergies, or suspect you or a family member is having an allergy, we can help you diagnose and treat the condition.

Our Advanced Care Team model of healthcare delivery means that an entire team is dedicated to taking care of you. The physician will conduct a comprehensive examination and take your detailed medical and family history, and also order blood, serum, skin and other tests, as required. The tests can be conducted at EPIC Primary Care’s Diagnostics Service Center – you do not have to go anywhere else.

Once the physician has the detailed test reports in hand, they will be able to identify the allergen. A plan of action for preventing allergic reactions in the future will be charted and given to you. Sometimes it may not be possible to avoid the allergens completely; your EPIC physician will prescribe appropriate medications to help alleviate your symptoms.

If the physician feels it will help decrease your allergic reaction over time, you may be asked to take allergy shots – minuscule doses of the allergens so that your body can build up the required immunity for the allergy.

Do you suspect you or a family member is suffering from seasonal allergies? Don’t suffer any more! Schedule an appointment to consult an EPIC Primary Care physician or allergy specialist right away, or simply walk into any of our care centers. We are open for extended hours, every day of the week.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to share your experience, please drop it in the comment box below. Do share this article with your friends and family by reposting it on your social network. Follow EPIC Primary Care on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thank you for reading!

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