Examiner.com: Allergies or a cold? How to know the difference to treat symptoms properly

Do you know the difference between the common cold and seasonal allergies? They both create similar symptoms in people such as a runny nose and sneezing. Understanding how they are different helps when choosing how to treat symptoms. 

Why is it important to know the difference? Your course of treatment depends on what you know. Because many rely on over-the-counter medicines it is possible to choose the wrong option. This could be why symptoms don’t go away as soon as you thought they would or get worse. Here is what you need to know about allergies and the common cold.

Seasonal Allergies Defined

Seasonal allergies are common during specific times of the year. This is because symptoms are triggered by certain elements such as grass and pollen. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, spring allergies are typically experienced in February and last through the beginning of summer.

A number of events occur during this time span that trigger allergy symptoms. Changes in weather conditions, plant pollination and growth, and increase in mold spores trigger allergies. For some people their symptoms can last into autumn. The allergy season can start at different times during the year depending on where you live and climate.

Factors to keep in mind influencing allergies include tree pollen, ragweed, mold growth in humidity changes, and changes in pollen count due to wind, rain and warmer temperatures. During fall months ragweed can be a problem along with certain types of plants.

People should pay attention to what triggers symptoms and how to treat them. Allergy sufferers experience sneezing, runny nose and itchy watery eyes. Your doctor or allergist can help you understand what is triggering symptoms. 

You may be advised to keep windows closed, take a shower when coming from outside, or to stay indoors during certain times of the day when pollen counts are high. There are medicines available over-the-counter and by prescription. Other treatment options may include nose drops and allergy shots.

Aside from the weather other factors such as food ingredients, certain types of trees, insect bites, and smoke from outdoor activities or wood burning fireplaces during winter months could also contribute to seasonal allergies.

The Common Cold Defined

A cold is often experienced during the spring and winter seasons, but according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the common cold can be experienced by adults and children anytime during the year. Children may experience a cold multiple times in a year while adults average about 2 or 3 in a year.

Symptoms of the common cold can last roughly 7 to 10 days and include sore throat, runny nose, head and body aches, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. The common cold could develop into something more serious for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma or have a weak immune system.

Treatment for the common cold includes a number of actions and precautions. People sick with a cold should stay home and rest while limiting contact with others. Wash hands after blowing your nose or coughing and keep hands away from your face. Surface areas affected such as desks, countertops, doorknobs and etc., should be disinfected to ensure germs are not spread. Stay hydrated with fluids and use over-the-counter medicine that matches symptoms experienced. 

Contact your doctor or pediatrician if symptoms get worse, unusual or are accompanied with a fever. Antibiotics are not used to treat the common cold even though it is considered a virus. A cold can spread from person to person through secretions in the air from someone who is infected. It can also pass through touch and moisture via eyes, nose and mouth. There are different viruses contributing to the common cold. The same virus can trigger other health concerns such as ear and sinus infections or asthma attacks.