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Infographic: Is It a Cold or Allergies? Know Your Symptoms

Infographic comparing symptoms of a cold versus allergies

It’s that time of year again when you can go from feeling great to sick without a moment’s notice. Suddenly, you could find yourself battling a runny nose, nasal congestion or even a cough, all of which are symptoms common to both colds and allergies.

Ashley Chambers, MD, an OhioHealth Primary Care Physician, says that although some cold and allergy symptoms are similar, there are a few telling differences between the two.

“A cold often starts with symptoms such as a sore throat and progresses to congestion, cough, and runny nose,” says Chambers. “A cold usually includes fatigue, body aches and sometimes fever, and lasts up to 14 days but then resolves without further treatment. “

According to Chambers, allergies have a few key differences that set them apart from the common cold. First off, it can be more difficult to pin down a timeframe for allergies. Additionally, allergies can present symptoms not typically associated with a cold.

“Allergies do not cause fevers or body aches. Symptoms of allergies can last days to months. Itchy watery eyes are more likely to be present with allergies versus a cold,” says Chambers.

For most people battling a cold, a self-diagnosis should be pretty simple. However, if symptoms worsen or persist longer than a couple of weeks, seeing a physician should be the next step to determining if you’re dealing with allergies or something more serious.

What to do after your diagnosis?

After you’ve been able to determine exactly which condition is causing your symptoms, it’s important to take steps to get your health back on the right track. Although colds typically heal without much medical intervention, there are medications available to ease symptoms during the healing process.

“A cold will resolve without treatment. Over the counter medications such as decongestants and cough suppressants can help ease symptoms,” says Chambers.

Those suffering from allergies, however, do frequently require medications to get relief from nagging symptoms.

“Oral antihistamines such as Claritin and Zyrtec and steroid nasal sprays are mainstays in allergy treatment. Decongestants can also be useful in controlling allergy symptoms. Antihistamine eye drops and antihistamine nasal sprays can be helpful as well. Allergy specialists consider allergy shots to help reduce symptoms in severe cases,” says Chambers.

Unsure if you’re battling cold or allergies? Visit an OhioHealth Primary Care Physician!


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