Is it a Cold or Seasonal Allergies?

The common cold and seasonal allergies are not the same, but they have overlapping symptoms, making it easy to confuse one for the other. Not only that, but you can experience a cold and seasonal allergies at the same time. Each illness has distinct causes and symptoms, though. Colds are caused by a virus, while allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to inhaling substances such as mold, pollen, or pet dander. Exposure to these allergens causes your immune system to overreact as though a foreign invader is attacking the body, causing symptoms such as itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, coughing, and sinus pressure.Some may believe what is actually seasonal allergies must be a cold, because they have never experienced allergies before. However, it isn’t unusual for adults to develop seasonal allergies later in life.

Symptom Differences Between the Common Cold and Seasonal Allergies

With all the similarities between a cold and seasonal allergies, it can be difficult to tell them apart. The symptoms of seasonal allergies generally include sneezing, stuffy nose, and itchy nose and eyes. A cold also causes sneezing, runny nose, a cough, and/or fever, but it does not cause itchy eyes. Rather, itchy nose and eyes happen as a result of the body attempting to combat an allergen.

The main differences between a cold and seasonal allergies include:

  • The duration of symptoms: Seasonal allergies may persist for months, whereas a cold usually lasts for a few days to several weeks. Allergies will last for as long as a person is exposed to allergens that irritate them.
  • Contagiousness: A cold is contagious, and you can easily catch one from another person by shaking their hand or if they sneeze of cough near you. Allergies, on the other hand, are not contagious, and are instead caused by an overactive immune system.
  • Season of onset: Colds happen most often in the winter, but are possible at any time. Seasonal allergies are usually triggered by seasonal changes, and occur more predictably.
  • Frequency (acute or chronic): If your symptoms pop up at the same time every year, it may be seasonal allergies.

Get Help for Seasonal Allergies

If you have an ailment you can’t identify as a cold or a seasonal allergy, you should see your doctor if your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks. It could signal you have seasonal allergies, or signs of another problem. The best way to avoid seasonal allergy symptoms is to avoid triggers. Of course, it’s not always impossible to avoid pollen, dust or mold, but medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, allergy drops, and other treatments are useful.

Ready to discuss seasonal allergies with our board-certified allergists? Contact us at the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia today at (404) 994-3574 to book your appointment.