How is a Cold different from Allergies?
Although they may share similar symptoms, colds and allergies are quite different. Understanding the underlying cause of each of these conditions can help you to distinguish one from the other.
What Is a Cold?
A cold occurs when a virus enters the body and causes an aggressive response from the body’s immune system. Symptoms of this immune response may include congestion, coughing, fever, sneezing, and runny nose. As long as you’re infected with the virus, you are contagious to others and can transfer the germs through coughing, sneezing, shaking hands, or sharing foods or beverages.
What Are Allergies?
Similar to colds, the symptoms of allergies are also triggered by aggressive responses from our immune systems. In the case of allergies, the cause is a specific allergen, not an invading virus. Unfortunately for some people, their immune system, designed to protect against infection, can become oversensitive, responding to environmental substances such as pollens, grasses, dust, molds, certain foods, pet dander, and insect venom among other things. During these allergic responses the body releases chemicals such as histamines that trigger allergy symptoms and make us feel sick.
Allergies vs Cold
Although they can have similar symptoms, allergies and cold viruses affect the body differently. To better assess what’s making you feel poorly, review the following comparison of symptoms.
Minor colds typically last between 7 to 10 days, are self-limited, and require no treatment. Allergies, on the other hand, can cause persisting symptoms as long as a person continues to be exposed to the offending allergen. Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants can be used to limit symptoms from both afflictions. Individuals with chronic allergies may need ongoing medications medications such as nasal sprays, leukotriene inhibitors, or allergy shots to control their symptoms. If you experience cold symptoms for longer than seven days, it is a good idea to get the symptoms checked out.
PhysicianOne Urgent Care providers are available 7 days/week with extended hours to evaluate your symptoms when it works for your schedule. We can help determine whether you’re suffering from a seasonal respiratory virus, or seasonal allergies, and help provide relief.
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