Those troublesome symptoms have started once again — your nose is running, your eyes feel like sandpaper, and your throat hurts. You feel terrible, but you can’t be totally sure why. Is it a common cold or a seasonal allergy?
Unfortunately, the two conditions can look very similar. But there are ways to tell the difference between allergies and a cold so that you can start feeling better.
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It Could Be an Allergy or a Cold
Though they look the same, colds and allergies result from two different irritants in your body.
Colds can come from viruses that attack your immune system. They may leave you feeling congested and fatigued.
Allergies, , are the immune response your body has to a (usually harmless) trigger, like dust or pollen. For seasonal allergies, your immune response will often leave you with itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose.
While many people have seasonal allergies in the spring or fall, you can get a cold at any time of year.
Differences Between Allergies and a Cold
Both allergies and colds affect your respiratory system. Common symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, and coughing fits can be caused by both allergies and colds.
Fortunately, there are a few key ways to tell the difference between allergies and colds. Besides the symptoms mentioned above, a cold is more likely to exhibit these symptoms:
Severe sore or aching throat
Symptoms ease up after seven to 10 days
Cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks may indicate a more serious infection, so call your doctor.
“The average adult gets the common cold two to three times per year,” says Shane Eikenberry, MD, a primary care doctor at Greater Pittsburgh Medical Associates–UPMC. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you’re probably suffering from allergies instead of a cold:
Symptoms that persist over several weeks
Treating Allergies vs. a Cold
There’s no cure for the common cold or allergies — antibiotics won’t help. That being said, you can ease your symptoms with over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines.
If you’re still not sure if you have allergies or a cold, talk to your doctor or make an appointment at the UPMC Comprehensive Allergy-Immunology Clinic. They can help determine what your symptoms mean and get you on the right track to feeling better.
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