It’s the change of seasons and you have sinus pressure, runny and stuffed up nose, coughing, watery and itchy eyes. You’re sneezing and have a sore throat. You think it’s a summer cold —one of those that you get every year. Have you ever considered, however, that you may have seasonal allergies? The signs are similar. Here is how you can tell the difference.
You can suffer from seasonal allergies at any time, but often they occur in the spring or fall. The ailment is often referred to as hay fever, after the harvesting season in which it takes place. Seasonal allergies occur because your body has an unusually strong reaction to environmental factors like pollen or grass. When exposed, the body’s immune system produces histamine that results in the classic symptoms of a cold.
At the change of seasons, the ever-changing weather patterns are perfect for growing viruses that can infect you and cause the common cold. This illness can last up to two weeks and has similar symptoms. This is the largest difference between allergies and a cold — a cold is a viral infection.
Upper respiratory infections can also occur at this time of year. These are often bacterial infections rather than viral ones, and look a lot like a cold but can be more severe.
Knowing the Difference
Generally speaking, allergies do not carry with them a fever and are persistent, lasting a month or longer. You will find that you come down with symptoms every year up to twice a year, at roughly the same time.
Colds and upper respiratory infections carry fevers, muscle aches, sore throat and joint pain that are not often associated with allergic reactions. Itching at the eyes and skin is usually an allergic symptom and not one of a cold or infection.
Treating the Condition
If you have a cold, the best treatment is over-the-counter medication to handle the symptoms, with lots of rest, vitamins and good old-fashioned chicken soup. Allergies are usually treated in a similar manner, with over-the-counter medications containing antihistamines to address the symptoms. In severe cases, however, the doctor may prescribe stronger medications to handle your allergies.
Upper respiratory infections that are caused by bacteria can be handled with prescription antibiotics. These are only prescribed for bacterial infections and have no effect on viruses or allergies.
If you do have allergies, you will need to avoid exposure to triggers as best you can. Keep your windows and doors closed during the season. Keep track of pollen counts every day and stay indoors during air quality action days if possible. When you do go outdoors, be sure that you shower and change clothes when you come back in. These actions will help to minimize allergy attacks.
If you are not sure whether you have an allergy, you should check with a qualified Atlanta ENT doctor. Why not give us a call today for a checkup? We can help alleviate those pesky symptoms!