Sneezing. Congestion. A scratch in your throat. You could be getting a cold, or you might be one of the 50 million Americans who have allergies. Colds and allergies have similar symptoms, so it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. Here are some tips for pinpointing the trouble so you can start to feel better.
With allergies, there’s more sneezing, and you’re more prone to itchiness—like itchy eyes or itchy ears. With a cold, a sore throat is more likely to occur. Also, there’s more fatigue associated with a cold.
If you have a cold, rest and drink lots of warm fluids, like soup and non-caffeinated tea, which can help with congestion. You can also take over-the-counter cold medications such as cough medicine and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) for achiness. If a cold lasts longer than seven to 10 days, and if your cough is getting deeper and your secretions are getting thick and dark, you should see your healthcare provider. There’s always a concern that a cold can turn into bacterial sinusitis or pneumonia.
If allergies are causing your troubles, the best treatment is taking an antihistamine. When you’re exposed to an allergen,your body produces chemicals called histamines, which can cause itching, sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes. There are different varieties of antihistamines available over the counter like loratadine (Alavert® and Claritin®) and fexofenadine (Allegra®).
However, sometimes taking an antihistamine is not enough. If your symptoms are persistent and the medication isn’t effective, then you should see your healthcare provider. You may need medication like a corticosteroid nasal spray to target the particular part of the upper respiratory tract where you have the most symptoms. If the symptoms are more noticeable in the eye, you may need a specific eye drop.
Practice healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep,exercising and keeping stress in check.
Work with your healthcare provider to identify risk factors and create a treatment plan.
If you’re unsure whether it’s a cold or allergies, make an appointment today with your healthcare provider.