A runny or stuffy nose, and non-stop sneezing, can leave people feeling miserable — but is it a cold or are allergies taking a toll?
Finding out whether symptoms are caused by a cold or allergy is the first step to finding relief, according to allergist Dr. Jeremy Katcher of Patients First Health Care in Washington, MO. He is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and an expert at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma. also has a medical facility in Eureka.
Colds are contagious, and are caused by one of more than 200 viruses, said Katcher. People can’t "catch" allergies, however, which are triggered by allergens, prompting immune systems to overreact.
There are many possible known allergens, from pollen to pet dander. And while fall sneezing might be due to a cold, Katcher said high levels of weed pollens and mold spores cause misery this time of year for the 60 million Americans who suffer from allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever.
Katcher shares some general guidelines for comparing fall colds versus fall allergies:
How does the suffering start?: Colds evolve, usually starting with a stuffy nose, sore throat, and low grade fever. Next comes the sneezing and a runny nose, with thickening mucus that often turns yellow or green. Common allergy symptoms include itchy eyes and nose, as well as sneezing, but the mucus is typically clear.
Can’t shake your symptoms?: “Allergy symptoms, on the other hand, hang on or even increase as long as you are exposed to the allergen that is triggering your symptoms,” said Katcher. “For fall allergies, that may mean six to eight weeks or more.”
Have a fever?: If you’re achy and feverish, you most likely have a cold.
Do your eyes have it?: Itchy eyes strongly suggest allergies, although eye discomfort can occur with a cold, too.
What happens when you say ahhh?: Although a sore throat and cough can occur with allergies, those symptoms more likely suggest you have a cold. Coughing, however, can be a sign of asthma, especially in children. A persistent cough should be evaluated by an allergist as other diseases can have this symptom, too.
Katcher recommends taking a relief self-test by clicking here to learn more about handling allergies and asthma.