Every year, humans deal with the dreaded winter cold; sniffles, stuffy noses, and sometimes that lingering cough. Despite our deep knowledge of “colds” and what causes them, do we know what makes a cold and what makes an allergy? Their symptoms often coalesce, and can be hard to differ. Also, their treatments can vary, and using allergy medicine against a cold is not going to affect the cold in the same way it would an allergy. Keep reading to find out the big differences in colds and allergies.
Cold Versus Allergies
We all are familiar with the symptoms; the Vicks, and the tissues, but what is really behind your cold? When you get a cold, your immune system is reacting to an unfamiliar virus. In this case, your immune system has many benefits, and can fight off the virus with generally no concern. Your body’s response to allergens comes from an overactive immune system. Your immune system in this instance is “protecting” you from a potentially harmful substance. Your triggers could be as small as pollen, to something as big as pet dander.
Similar Symptoms, Different Cause
Just like a head cold, allergies present themselves with a runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, and a post-nasal drip. But other factors can help you decide if you have a cold or just seasonal allergies. A cold, for example, takes a slower approach and then peaks, and then ends. Allergies, on the other hand, come on suddenly and will stay as long as the allergen is present in the environment.
If your cold has lasted longer than 10-14 days, it may have progressed to a sinus infection, which requires antibiotics.
Treating Your Cold or Allergy
To treat a cold you can buy OTC medicine such as an analgesic for throat irritation, or an NSAID for fever-reducing, such as Ibuprofen. When you treat seasonal allergies, any OTC allergy medication can lend you some relief. Just make sure you opt for an anti-drowsy pill if you need to drive or go to work.
Do you have allergies or a cold? Recognizing the differences between allergies and the common cold could save you some time at the Urgent Care. Make sure to observe your symptoms, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated.