Is It Allergies, a Cold or Something Else?
North Texans know that allergy season can last all year. There always seems to be something in the air that can cause a scratchy throat or itchy eyes. But what if the symptoms mean something else? That’s the thing with allergies — the symptoms are just hazy enough that they cross paths with other illnesses. To know the difference, it helps to know the culprit.
Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system that sends your body into defense mode when something that’s usually harmless, such as dust or pollen, is mistaken for germs. Your body releases histamines to go after the allergens, just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause swelling in your nasal passages, a runny nose, cough, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.
Colds, on the other hand, are caused by hundreds of different viruses. When one of these viruses gets into your body, thanks to contact with an infected person or contaminated surface, your immune system fights back. The response can come in the way of nasal congestion, a runny nose, coughing and/or sneezing.
How to Tell What You Have
Despite similarities (like both being annoying), allergies and colds do have some differences. The most important one is that colds usually don’t last longer than 14 days. Plus, they may bring with them body aches, a fever and a sore throat. If you still have symptoms after two weeks, you should check in with your doctor.
Allergies can cause a lot of upper respiratory symptoms, much like a cold. You may have congestion and sneezing, but you’ll likely also have watery or itchy eyes and itchy skin. You may feel tired, but not necessarily feel like you’re sick.
Colds and flu typically run their course within five to 10 days. Allergy symptoms may last several weeks to several months.
If you or a loved one is an allergy sufferer, arming yourself with an over-the-counter antihistamine like Claritin or Allegra, decongestant, saline nasal rinse or prescription nasal spray will probably relieve the symptoms.
As for cold and flu symptoms, the best “medicine” involves covering a cough and washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water to not spread your illness to others, getting lots of fluids and plenty of rest, and allowing yourself the time to get well.
It’s best to talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you or your loved one, no matter the symptoms. During a telemedicine or in-office visit at Community Healthcare Center, your symptoms can be assessed and a treatment plan can be determined.
Could It Be Something More?
A lot of attention is being paid to COVID-19 and its symptoms right now. Because this virus is a contagious respiratory illness, it shares some symptoms with the common cold and flu — which can also be passed from person to person. Similar signs and symptoms, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may include:
- Fever, chills and/or body aches
- Sore throat and cough
- Runny or stuffy nose
The difference between flu and COVID-19, for example, is they are caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. When it comes to colds or seasonal allergies, it’s rare to have a fever or diarrhea with either.
With so much out there working against your good health, it may be hard to tell what you have based on symptoms alone. Testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis, and a visit with a healthcare provider is always good medicine.
Community Healthcare Center is here to keep you and your family well. We now offer telemedicine visits from the comfort and safety of your home, along with in-office visits. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please call our office at 940.766.6306 and we will schedule a telemedicine visit for you. We welcome Medicare, Medicaid, most STAR Plans, CHIP and most Insurances.
If you develop emergency warning signs of COVID-19, don’t wait. Seek immediate medical attention.