How Do I Know if it’s a Cold or Allergies?

April 29, 2024

by  | Apr 29, 2024 | Healthy Living

It’s that time of the year when the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and unfortunately, sniffles and sneezes are making a comeback. So, what’s the deal? Did you catch a nasty bug, or is it just those pesky allergies acting up again? You have things to do and zipline adventures to have–and being sick is not on the list!

You might have thought that saying goodbye to winter meant waving farewell to colds too. While winter brings its own set of viruses like the flu and rhinoviruses, spring introduces a new player: enteroviruses. These viruses hang around from June to October, infecting 10 to 15 million people annually across the country.

But, how do you know if you’re battling a spring cold? If you’re feeling under the weather with symptoms like sniffles, body aches, and exhaustion, you might have caught a virus. Cooler temperatures allow cold germs to multiply, and the fluctuating weather of spring creates the perfect breeding ground for them. If you’re also dealing with allergies, it’s like a double whammy for your immune system.


Enteroviruses aren’t just your average cold bugs. These viruses hang out in your throat, and intestines, and can cause all sorts of havoc. Non-polio enteroviruses are responsible for the common cold, pink eye, fever, gastrointestinal upset, rash, cough, sore throat, and chest pain. Children are the most affected by enteroviruses, and males experience a higher rate of infection than women. Many of the illnesses are self-limited meaning they do not require medical intervention—you just have to wait for them to work their way through your system.

One way you can help your body fight off invading viruses is to keep your nose warm in cooler weather by wearing a scarf. This helps keep germs from multiplying quickly. The best way to protect yourself from enteroviruses is to avoid touching your face and regularly washing your hands, especially after being in a public environment.
To avoid germs, wash your hands for 20 seconds:

  • Using warm, soapy water
  • Before cooking or preparing foods
  • Before eating
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing diapers or assisting in toileting needs
  • More often when someone in your household is sick

Asthma or Allergies?

Now, if you’re someone who deals with asthma, springtime can be extra rough. Pollen levels soar, triggering allergy symptoms that can aggravate your asthma. Studies have shown that early springs can lead to longer pollen seasons, which means more suffering for those sensitive to pollen. But don’t worry, there are ways to ease the discomfort, like keeping an eye on pollen forecasts, using air conditioning, investing in HEPA filters for the house, and using a vacuum with HEPA technology.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you’ve caught a bug or if allergies are to blame. One way to figure it out is by stepping outside for a bit. If your symptoms are unchanged, it might be a cold. If they get worse, allergies could be the culprit. And if you’re still unsure, look out for watery eyes and sneezing, which usually point to allergies.

Allergic responses due to histamines can start a chain reaction in the body leading to inflammation of the sinuses resulting in breathing issues and sleep disruption. The histamine response and how the body fights viruses are similar, making it easy for a person to confuse them. Allergy fatigue can set in quickly causing persistent tiredness that is not relieved by rest. It impacts day-to-day productivity and lowers the body’s ability to fight viruses. Once the process has begun, it can take some time to get it under control, even with medication.

Allergy fatigue can contribute to:

  1. Brain Fog- lack of focus, confusion, or even forgetfulness can indicate allergic sinusitis that inflames the nasal passages leading to a decrease in oxygen intake and associated mental clarity.
  2. Sleep Apnea- swollen sinuses and congestion can lead to sleep disruptions due to continual interrupted breathing.
  3. Weakened Immune System- an immune system constantly on high alert can become less effective due to continual strain which then reduces its resources to fight infections or other conditions.

Whether it’s a cold or allergies, there are ways to fight back and start feeling like yourself again. For colds, over-the-counter decongestants can help clear up those stuffy noses, while antihistamines are your go-to for allergy relief. And hey, if you’re feeling really out of it, don’t be afraid to take it easy and give your body the rest it needs.
Springtime might bring its fair share of sniffles and sneezes, but armed with the right knowledge, you can kick those bugs and allergies to the curb and get back to enjoying the sunshine.

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