How to Know Your Cold Symptoms Are Nothing More Than Seasonal Allergies

How to Know Your Cold Symptoms Are Nothing More Than Seasonal Allergies



Does the thought of spring suddenly make you sneeze? Does just thinking about the onset of fall make your eyes water? Do you always seem to get a cold at the same time every year? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone! You may be suffering from seasonal allergies. How can you tell when it’s just a cold or if it’s something more? Let’s keep reading. 

Colds and allergies are often confused for each other as they have a very similar symptom profile, but in reality, they are actually quite different disease processes. Colds are caused by over 200 different viruses, and are spread from person to person via coughing and sneezing. Colds usually last between 10 to 14 days and clear on their own without the use of antibiotics. On average, adults get around 3 colds per year; while children can have more than 6. 

Seasonal allergies on the other hand are not caused by viruses at all. Seasonal allergies are an immune system response that occurs as a result of specific allergens or irritants. For many people, allergies are usually a chronic, or long-term, condition. The length of symptoms for allergies can vary from several weeks to several months depending on the exposure to the allergens. Occasionally, seasonal allergies are also referred to as hay fever, even though a fever is uncommon, and the allergen doesn’t necessarily have to be hay. In the United States, spring allergies usually begin around February and can last through the early summer. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology report tree pollen and grass pollen as the top two allergens in the spring. Ragweed is the most common cause of fall allergies as it blooms wild in many parts of the country – most heavily in the Midwest and on the East coast.  

Even though the disease processes are different, the symptoms overlap considerably. Both colds and allergies commonly have symptoms of sneezing, congestion, or a runny nose. Colds are more likely to have an accompanying cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue, and aches and pains. Allergies should never have a fever or aches and pains, and very rarely will have a sore throat. Itchy eyes are a hallmark symptom in allergies that are rarely present in colds. Knowing the subtle differences can help you get relief quicker. Still not sure if you’re experiencing a cold or seasonal allergies? Stop by your neighborhood Kroger store and visit with a clinic provider. The board-certified Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants can diagnose and treat your seasonal allergies and help find a treatment plan that works for you. 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggest several medication treatment options for seasonal allergies, including antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal corticosteroids, just to name a few. Talk to your pharmacist about which of these over the counter medications can help stop the sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. While medications are a great treatment option to improve symptoms, avoidance of the allergen is the best method of prevention. Wash your hands after coming in contact with allergens, avoid touching your face, and resist the urge to throw your windows open during high pollen times – use an air conditioner to circulate air instead, and keep the pollen outdoors. Did you know that foods and supplements can help fight seasonal allergies as well? Click here for tips from our Kroger Health nutrition team on ways to use food as medicine. 

So when pollen counts are high, you can’t stop sneezing, and can’t imagine going outside, head to and have your allergy medication and tissues delivered right to your door!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


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