The difference between a cold and allergies


If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from seasonal allergies, the change of season may bring more than beautiful flowers and blossoming trees. In Waco, allergens such as grass pollen, tree pollen and ragweed pollen are being reported at moderate to high levels, causing allergic reactions throughout the city.

Dr. Jonathan Seale, with Ascension Providence, was recently featured on KXXV with helpful information about allergies.

What are allergies?

Allergies are the reaction our body has when exposed to otherwise harmless particles in the environment, such as pollen, mold spores or dust. Some of us develop an inflammatory reaction to these particles and our bodies release various chemicals, including histamines. These chemicals can trigger symptoms in the nose, eyes, lungs, throat, sinuses and ears.

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Common symptoms include sneezing, runny nose and red, watery, itchy eyes. Some people may experience pain in the ear, puffiness around the eyes, wheezing, fatigue, headaches and more.

You’ve got sniffles, sneezing and a sore throat. Is it a cold or allergies?

A common cold is more likely to include muscle aches, headaches and a sore throat.

Despite the name “hay fever,” seasonal allergies don’t usually cause fever or body aches, whereas people with a cold have these symptoms.

Allergies are more likely to cause itchy, watery eyes combined with a runny nose and congestion.

Colds tend to last for a few days up to a couple of weeks while seasonal allergies are more likely to last longer — as long as you are in contact with the allergy triggers.

Cold symptoms tend to come on gradually over a day or two. When symptoms come on suddenly out of nowhere, they are more likely to be caused by an allergy.

How can you manage your symptoms to allergens?

If you know what you’re allergic to and when you’re most likely to be exposed to that allergen, you can manage your symptoms by following these recommendations:

Take a daily antihistamine. Taking the medication once a day should keep your symptoms at bay. If your symptoms persist – add a topical nasal steroid spray.

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers. Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores during high allergy season, remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair; wear a pollen mask while doing outside chores.

Take extra steps when pollen counts are high. If pollen forecasts are high in your area, take allergy medication before your symptoms start and close doors and windows at night.

Keep indoor air clean by using a high-efficiency filter and following regular maintenance schedules; use air conditioning in your house and car; keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.