Winter’s here again in Buffalo, NY, and that means that it’s cold and flu season. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a bout of the sniffles means you’re suffering from your regular allergies or if you’ve finally caught that cold that’s been going around. However, if you don’t know which is which, you might end up taking the wrong treatment or over-medicating. Thankfully, all you need is a few simple tests to tell for sure whether it’s allergies vs. cold.

How are Allergies & Colds Different?

While colds and allergies may have similar symptoms, they’re not at all alike. Colds and flus are caused by viruses. If a virus enters your body and attacks enough of your cells, it will trigger an immune response in order to kill the foreign substance and prevent it from causing any further damage.

An allergic response is similar insofar as it involves the immune system; however, an allergen isn’t actually a harmful substance. An allergen, like animal dander, pollen, or peanuts, is a substance your body erroneously believes is dangerous.

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What Symptoms Should I Expect?

You can expect congestion, a runny nose, a post-nasal drip, and a cough whether you have an allergy or a cold. However, there are a few key symptoms that should clue you off. First of all, allergies never cause fevers.

Because an allergen doesn’t attack your body, it doesn’t take the body that long to destroy it, and therefore allergy attacks never last as long as colds or flus do. An allergy attack shouldn’t last more than a few hours where colds usually last up to a week.

Secondly, colds don’t cause itchy eyes. If your eyes are watering, you know for sure that you’re dealing with an allergy.

Allergies vs. Colds: How Should I Medicate?

There’s no shortage of effective cold and allergy medications available in the drug store today, but you have to be very careful when treating multiple symptoms. If you take a few different pills without properly comparing side effects and dosage requirements, you could really do some damage even if you’re only taking over-the-counter drugs.

Make sure, first and foremost, that you note the active ingredients. If you take two separate medications for two separate symptoms, but both of them contain acetaminophen, for example, you could be overdosing. In general, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure about the difference between allergies vs. colds, it’s better to not take anything at all. Of course, you can always consult your physician if you’re not sure.

Alternatively, there are always natural ways to medicate. Whether it’s a sinus headache or itchy eyes, you might not actually need a pill. Sometimes, nature’s own remedies are even more effective anyway, and they don’t come with as many negative side effects.

Last Thoughts: Allergies vs. Colds

Lastly, make sure that you go to see your local, Buffalo, NY ENT if symptoms don’t clear up after 2 weeks. If you’re still struggling with congestion, you may be suffering from another condition altogether.

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People prone to this condition are those who cope with environmental allergies, frequent sinus infections, asthma, extreme sensitivity to aspirin, and certain immune disorders. Nasal polyps can occur at any age, however they are more common after age 40 and more prevalent in men than women. Children who have cystic fibrosis also tend to experience polyps in their nose.
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