With spring weather getting in gear, it’s that time of year 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, Ohio Health Primary Care, Endocrinology and Pulmonary Physicians, 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 and body aches and sometimes fever, and lasts up to 14 days but then resolves without further treatment. “
According to Chambers, it can be much tougher to pin down a timeframe for allergy symptoms and allergies, in general, can present a set of problems not typically seen in a common 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.”
For most people battling a cold, a self-diagnosis should be pretty simple, especially if your symptoms only last for a few days to two weeks. If symptoms worsen or persist longer than a couple of weeks, seeing a physician should be the next step to determining if you’re battling allergies or something more serious than a cold.
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, says Chambers.
“A cold will resolve without treatment. Over the counter medications such as decongestants and cough suppressants can help ease symptoms.”
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!