How to Tell if It’s a Cold or Allergies

April 28, 2024

by  | Apr 29, 2024 | Healthy Living

As the seasons change and spring blooms, so too does the onset of sniffles and sneezes. Is it a cold, or are allergies wreaking havoc again? With so much to do and adventures waiting, you need to know what’s slowing you down. Here’s how to differentiate between a cold and allergies so you can get back to your busy life.

Understanding Spring Illnesses

You might think that winter’s end means an end to colds, but spring introduces new culprits: enteroviruses. Active from June to October, these viruses infect 10 to 15 million people annually in the U.S. If you’re experiencing symptoms like sniffles, body aches, and fatigue, you might have caught one. Cooler temperatures and fluctuating weather conditions during spring create an ideal environment for cold germs to spread. If you have allergies too, your immune system faces a double challenge.

Enteroviruses: Not Your Typical Cold

Enteroviruses affect the throat and intestines, causing a variety of symptoms beyond the common cold, including:

  • Pink eye
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Rash
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain

Children are most susceptible, and men have higher infection rates than women. Although these illnesses are often self-limiting, meaning they resolve on their own, you can take steps to help your body fight them off. Keeping your nose warm with a scarf in cooler weather can prevent germs from multiplying. The best defense is regular hand washing, especially after being in public.

Handwashing Tips:

  • Use warm, soapy water
  • Wash for at least 20 seconds
  • Wash before cooking or eating
  • Wash after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • Wash more frequently if someone in your household is sick

Asthma or Allergies?

For those with asthma, spring can be particularly tough. Pollen levels rise, triggering allergy symptoms that can worsen asthma. Early springs lead to longer pollen seasons, intensifying symptoms for those sensitive to pollen. To manage this, monitor pollen forecasts, use air conditioning, invest in HEPA filters, and vacuum with HEPA technology.

Distinguishing Colds from Allergies

It can be tricky to tell if you’re dealing with a cold or allergies. Here’s a simple test: step outside. If your symptoms remain the same, it might be a cold. If they worsen, allergies could be the cause. Watery eyes and sneezing typically point to allergies.

Histamines released during allergic reactions cause inflammation, leading to breathing issues and sleep disruption. This response can be similar to how the body fights viruses, causing confusion. Allergy fatigue sets in quickly, leading to persistent tiredness, reduced productivity, and a weakened immune system.

Allergy Fatigue Can Lead To:

  1. Brain Fog: Lack of focus, confusion, or forgetfulness due to reduced oxygen intake from inflamed nasal passages.
  2. Sleep Apnea: Swollen sinuses and congestion cause sleep disruptions from interrupted breathing.
  3. Weakened Immune System: An overworked immune system becomes less effective, reducing its ability to fight infections.

Combatting Symptoms

Whether it’s a cold or allergies, there are ways to feel better:

  • For colds: Over-the-counter decongestants can help clear up stuffy noses.
  • For allergies: Antihistamines provide relief from sneezing and itchy eyes.

If symptoms are severe, don’t hesitate to rest and let your body recover.

Springtime sniffles and sneezes are inevitable, but with the right knowledge, you can tackle them head-on. Whether it’s a cold or allergies, understanding your symptoms helps you take the appropriate steps to get back to enjoying the sunshine and all the activities that come with the season.

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