How Can I Tell the Difference Between Seasonal Allergies & a Cold?

The transition between seasons is a prime time for illness, but it’s important to know the cause of your sniffles. While you can have a late-season cold due to fluctuating temperatures, you may also be exhibiting seasonal allergies. The difference in symptoms is greater than you may think: most of the similarities end with the sniffles. While a cold can happen at any point during the year, certain allergens are only present during spring, summer, or fall. Knowing what is causing your illness is critical to getting the right care and visiting the right doctor, preventing more serious issues from forming.

Differences between allergies and a cold

The cold virus is around all year, affecting most adults at least once throughout the year. They are easily treated with fluid, rest and over-the-counter medications, and symptoms can take several days to form. In addition to congestion or a runny nose, symptoms of a cold include fever and full body aches. Allergic reactions happen more instantaneously, affecting your throat, eyes and skin. While minor allergic reactions can lead to watery and itchy eyes, throat congestion and a red, bumpy rash, it can quickly escalate to a severe reaction with more critical side effects. While allergic reactions begin quickly, they can take several days to weeks to full dissipate due to the presence of allergens in the air, particularly during the warmer seasons.

How cold treatment is different from allergy treatment

Colds are relatively easy to treat, with doctors recommending rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications and decongestants to relieve symptoms within a few days. If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, your doctor will want to perform more tests to determine the exact allergens causing problems in order to determine possible complications as well as the best course of action for treatment. This may include over-the-counter medication, topical rash creams or prescription EpiPen based on the severity and possibility of future attacks. Because the cold stems from a virus, it is expected to recur as the seasons change and may be able to resolve itself without medical attention. An allergic reaction will require an urgent care or emergency room visit in order to prevent anaphylactic shock.

Are you exhibiting symptoms and are unsure what it could be? Visit AFC Urgent Care Bound Brook to get examined and diagnosed by a doctor in order to receive proper treatment for your cold or seasonal allergies.


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Our mission is to provide the best healthcare possible in a kind and caring environment, in an economical manner, while respecting the rights of all of our patients, at times and locations convenient to the patient.

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