Cold vs Allergies: What’s the Difference?

How to Tell the Difference Between Cold vs Allergies

‘Tis the season for sniffling, runny noses and coughing. If you’re like most adults, you expect to have a cold or two at some point during the cooler months. What isn’t as clearcut is whether you or your child is too sick to go to work or to school. One source of confusion is that it can be difficult to tell if you are dealing with a cold, allergies or something else altogether. Here’s how to tell the difference between a cold vs allergies.

What Symptoms do Colds and Allergies Share?

The common cold and allergies cause several of the same symptoms which makes diagnosis challenging. Post-nasal drip, sneezing, reddened eyes, runny nose, and sore throat are all common symptoms that both conditions share. Coughing and nasal congestion are also often experienced by people who have either a common cold or allergies.

In some cases, a symptom like a sore throat can be experienced with both a cold and allergies. It’s more commonly found in those who have a cold though. Another way to tell if you or your loved one has a cold or an allergy is the duration of the symptoms. For most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) colds last for about one week to 10 days.

Colds are often thought of a cold weather problem, but they can develop during any time of the year. Currently, more than 200 subtypes of cold viruses have been identified. Rhinovirus is the most prevalent of these. These viruses are very contagious and can easily be transmitted from person to person — even without direct contact. The most common source of transmission is through droplets that become airborne by the sick person sneezing or coughing.

Differences Between Colds and Allergies

If you are suffering from an allergy, chances are that you noticed that your symptoms came on quickly. The symptoms of a common cold usually come on gradually over the course of a day or two. Allergies also tend to last longer than colds. In fact, if you are allergic to airborne substances, such as pollen or ragweed, you might find yourself suffering from symptoms for the entire season.

While colds and allergies share many of the same symptoms, you’re more likely to have allergies if your eyes are watery and itchy or if you have eczema. Unlike a cold, allergies aren’t contagious. Your body perceives a certain substance to be harmful so it releases compounds in an effort to fight it.

Histamine is one such compound that your body releases in reaction to an allergen. While the primary purpose of histamine is to fight off the invading substances and protect your body, it also causes many of the common allergy symptoms that can make you miserable.

Allergies don’t have to make you miserable this fall. Allergy testing can narrow the allergens your body is reacting to, making it easier to devise a treatment plan. Contact BackFit Health & Spine to schedule your complimentary assessment or for allergy testing.

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