If you’re coughing and sneezing and have a sore throat, and you’re like most people, you’re probably confused about what your symptoms mean. Is it a cold? Allergies? Something worse?
Here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care, those are some of the most common questions we get. The symptoms of colds and allergies are so similar, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Dr. James Lee, our experienced family physician, can help you understand the unique aspects of each so you can know whether your cold symptoms are actually allergy symptoms.
Could it be COVID-19?
Before we get into the differences between colds and allergies, let’s address the most pressing concern of the moment — COVID-19. The main symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 are cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is not common in a cold nor a bout of allergies.
COVID-19 may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell. None of these are typical signs of allergies and colds.
If you do have these COVID-19 symptoms, call us — don’t come into the office just yet — and let us instruct you on the best course of care.
Sorting out your cold and allergy symptoms
The reason people have such a hard time telling the difference between colds and allergies is the number of overlapping symptoms. Colds come and go, but if your cold symptoms are actually allergies, you can take steps to overcome them. With a little information, learn to decipher the signs and get the right treatment.
You may be tempted to treat them the same way because of this similarity in symptoms, but colds and allergies are caused by two very different things.
Colds come from viruses (several different strains). They’re very common, and adults catch an average of 2-3 colds every year.
Allergies are caused by substances your immune system doesn’t like, such as pollen or smoke (among many possible contenders). More than 50 million Americans suffer from some kind of allergy.
All this talk about the shared symptoms between colds and allergies calls for further investigation. The common signs include coughing, sneezing, and a sore throat, but there’s more to the story.
Colds may also come with a fever, fatigue, and a general sense of not feeling well. The fever might lead to body aches as well. You may start with a stuffy nose that progresses to a runny nose, and if your cold lasts more than a week, you may end up with a sinus infection.
Allergies occur when your immune system releases histamines to ward off allergens. Histamines are the cause of your allergy symptoms, which include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and sore throat (usually brought on by postnasal drip), as well as itchy, watery eyes. You may even get a skin rash.
Colds typically run their course within about a week. Allergies linger for weeks or months and get worse when you’re exposed to certain triggers.
How to know for sure if it’s a cold or allergies
There are no tests necessary for the common cold. If you can’t diagnose a cold yourself, Dr. Lee can help you come to the right conclusion and make sure you have what you need to reduce your symptoms until your cold goes away.
Meanwhile, you can treat the cold symptoms you have with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, tea with honey for a sore throat, and staying well hydrated and well rested.
If you have symptoms of allergies, Dr. Lee can perform a series of skin tests to identify the precise allergen. Once we find the culprit, Dr. Lee develops an immunotherapy treatment to help build your body’s resistance to the allergens so you can eventually overcome your allergies.
Whether you have a cold, allergies, or any other health concerns, you can count on Dr. Lee and our team here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care to provide you with a quick and accurate diagnosis so you can get healthy and stay healthy.
Call our Woodstock, Georgia, office at 770-927-8273 for an appointment or book one online when you need us. You can also send a message to Dr. Lee and the team here on our website.