Am I Sick, or Just Allergic?

April 29, 2024

by  | Apr 29, 2024 | Healthy Living


As the dreary winter days fade into the past, people start venturing out to enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activities. However, if you’re feeling lousy despite the sunshine, it can be puzzling. You might wonder why you’re dealing with sniffles, body aches, and exhaustion when winter is over. Let’s explore whether your symptoms are due to a cold or allergies, so you can get back to enjoying spring.

Springtime Viruses: The Enterovirus

The common misconception is that warmer weather chases away viruses. While winter is notorious for rhinoviruses and the flu, spring brings an increase in non-polio enteroviruses. These viruses peak between June and October, affecting 10 to 15 million people annually across the U.S. Children are particularly vulnerable, but adults can also fall ill if exposed to new strains.

Enteroviruses Explained

Colds often see a resurgence in spring. The season’s fluctuating weather, with changes in barometric pressure and temperature, can irritate and dry out nasal passages, our first defense against illness. If you have allergies, this can compound the misery by overwhelming your immune system. Research from Yale indicates that cold viruses thrive in cooler temperatures. A drop from 98.6°F to 91.4°F significantly aids viral replication. This is why spring’s alternating cold and warm days can be problematic. To combat this, keep your nose warm in cooler weather by wearing a scarf.

Enteroviruses replicate in the throat and intestines, causing a range of symptoms from the common cold and pink eye to gastrointestinal upset, rash, cough, sore throat, and chest pain. While many of these illnesses are self-limiting and resolve on their own, they can still make you feel miserable.

Protecting Yourself from Enteroviruses

Enteroviruses are resilient and can survive stomach acid to infect the intestines. The best way to protect yourself is through frequent hand washing, especially after being in public places and avoiding touching your face.

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

Seasonal Allergies and Asthma

Spring can be particularly challenging for those with asthma or allergies. Research shows a 17% increase in asthma hospitalizations with early spring onset, as tree pollen season lengthens. For those sensitive to pollen, this can mean prolonged symptoms.

Managing Allergies

Pollen, a leading trigger for allergy symptoms, can start a chain reaction in the body. This can lead to nasal tissue inflammation, breathing issues, and sleep disruptions. Allergy fatigue can set in quickly, causing persistent tiredness and impacting your daily life.

Strategies for Coping with Pollen:

  • Monitor pollen forecasts and current levels
  • Start taking allergy medications before symptoms begin
  • Keep doors and windows closed during high pollen counts; use air conditioning
  • Replace air filters regularly
  • Avoid outdoor activities in the early morning when pollen counts are highest
  • Use a humidifier to maintain indoor air moisture
  • Utilize a portable HEPA filter in your bedroom
  • Regularly use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter

Whether you’re battling a spring cold or dealing with allergies, recognizing the symptoms can help you take the right steps to feel better. For colds, over-the-counter decongestants can alleviate stuffiness. For allergies, antihistamines and proactive measures can reduce discomfort. Don’t let sniffles and sneezes hold you back from enjoying the vibrant spring season. With the right approach, you can manage your symptoms and embrace all the joys of warmer weather.

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