A Cold, or Seasonal Allergies?
The leaves are gold, red and orange, the weather has turned cooler- and, as if on cue, your nose starts to run, your eyes are puffy and watery, and you suddenly sneeze several times a day. Is it a cold- or do you have a fall (or seasonal) allergy?
| Check Your Symptoms
Symptoms of allergies and colds can be similar, but here's how to tell the difference:
|Occurrence of symptoms:||Symptoms often appear one at a time: first sneezing, then a runny nose, then congestion.||Symptoms occur all at once.|
|Duration of symptoms:||Generally last from seven to 10 days.||Continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergy-causing agent (allergen).|
|Mucus:||Often a yellowish nasal discharge, due to an infection.||Generally a clear, thin, watery discharge.|
|Sneezing:||Less common than with allergies.||More common than with colds, especially when sneezing occurs two or three times in a row.|
|Time of year:||More common during winter.||More common in spring through fall, when plants are pollinating.|
|Fever:||May be accompanied by a fever.||Not usually associated with a fever.|
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Can a test tell me which plant (or mold) is causing my allergy?
- Can my allergy be cured?
- Are there medications I can take?
- Are there lifestyle changes I can make to relieve my symptoms?
Did You Know?
- Hay fever is another name for fall allergies.
- Molds can also cause allergy symptoms when they release tiny reproductive cells, called spores.
- Tree pollen allergies strike in late winter to early spring, grass allergies can strike from spring through summer, and ragweed (which causes "hay fever") typically strikes in the fall.
- An allergen is a substance that your body perceives as dangerous, which causes an allergic reaction.
- An antihistamine is a medication that prevents congestion, sneezing and itchy, runny nose by blocking histamine (a substance released by your body's immune system after being exposed to an allergen.
- A decongestant is a medication that shrinks swollen nasal tissues to relieve symptoms of nasal swelling, congestion and mucus secretion.
Know Your Numbers
- 35 million- that's the number of people with allergic rhinitis, another name for seasonal allergies, according to NIAID
- Most people develop hay fever before age 30.
For more, please read the Common Cold and Allergies articles and visit the Cold and Flu Center.
WebMD the Magazine - September/October 2005
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care June 21, 2017
Originally published by WebMD Magazine September/October 2005.