Fall allergy season arrives just before blasts of cooler weather start to blanket the country. Not long after, cold and flu season hits in earnest, and indoor winter allergies kick in.
With these synonymous cold-weather sniffles going on, it can be hard to tell which one is ailing you — particularly if you have never had allergies before.
But seasonal allergies can strike anytime throughout your life, so it is important to pay attention to your symptoms.
“Fall is really a key point in the allergy season, mostly because of ragweed allergy, which affects most of North America,” Dr. Nadim Bikhazi, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Ogden, Utah, told weather.com. “Each plant produces a billion grains of pollen, which can travel hundreds of miles and have a tremendous impact on the whole nation.”
Meanwhile, common colds are caused by viruses. “A lot of times, people misdiagnose themselves; they just grab one medication to treat themselves when they’re really suffering from something else,” Dr. Bikhazi warned, encouraging individuals to get tested.
Find out if it’s a virus that’s bugging you, or if pollen’s the problem.
YOUR THROAT ITCHES
With a cold, you’re likely to wake up one day with a sore, painful throat. With allergies, “you’ll feel more of an itch rather than real soreness,” Dr. Bikhazi said.
Colds also progress more slowly whereas allergies can pop up almost instantly after an evening of exposure. With allergies, there’s often no change in your symptoms throughout their duration, and a sore throat, a cough and a case of nasal congestion all hit at once.
YOUR SYMPTOMS LAST AND LAST
Colds are progressive; you can have a sore throat, which turns into a runny or congested nose, which then becomes a cough, perhaps with a side of a low-grade fever. But after a few days, a cold will run its course, Dr. Bikhazi said.
Allergies, on the other hand, won’t quit without treatment, or until the season ends with a hard frost. (If your allergies are indoor, they’ll stay with you year round.) If it’s been two weeks and you’re not getting better, talk to your doctor about seasonal allergies, Dr. Bikhazi suggested.
YOU’RE SNEEZING AND WHEEZING
With a cold, you’ll cough. But allergies tend to produce more sneezing and wheezing as your body tries to shed harmful allergens. If itching around your mouth or eyes accompanies your coughing and sniffling, allergies are likely to blame.
Colds can also come with fevers, whereas people with allergies don’t run hot.
Everyday illnesses, aches and pains can set you back at work and at home.
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