CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Apr 24, 2014) - As Spring is beginning to bud around us, the pollen forecast is looking heavy. With the significantly snowy winter that we all experienced, we can expect full-on pollen production. When you start to feel that tickle in your nose, you need to be able to decide "is it really allergies, or have I caught a cold?"
"Between the runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and post-nasal drip, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a cold from allergies," explains Chicago allergist, Brian Rotskoff, MD. "Colds are more commonly associated with wintertime ailments, but the springtime cold does occur. At the early onset of symptoms, it's important to care for your symptoms to get the most effective results."
What is a cold? What are allergies?
Colds are caused by germs. If you think you have a cold, you more than likely caught it from another germ, and you should try to keep your distance from others. Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system, and are not contagious. If you have allergies, your body reads certain foreign substances, such as dust or pollen, as germs. When the body fights germs, it produces cold-fighting chemicals, known as histamines. These histamines cause a runny nose, coughing and sneezing. Thus bringing you the joy of allergies.
Timing is everything
When assessing symptoms, it is important to consider how long the symptoms have persisted and how quickly they came on. "The biggest difference between the two is that allergies won't go away as quickly as a cold," explains Dr. Rotskoff. A cold typically last 3-14 days, allergy symptoms will stick around for as long as the allergen is present. Meaning, if you are allergic to a springtime allergen, such as ragweed pollen, you can experience symptoms for as long as days to months.
"Another key indicator is how quickly the symptoms have set in," explains Dr. Rotskoff. "With a cold, symptoms take some time to begin to show. Allergy symptoms, on the other hand, start to rear their heads as soon as a person is exposed to the allergen."
One more indicator? "The color of your mucus," says Dr. Rotskoff. "If you see a lot of yellow mucus being produced, then you have a cold and it's time to get some rest."
Treating a cold or allergies
"With either a cold or allergies, there are treatment options," says Dr. Rotskoff. "For a cold, you should look to make yourself more comfortable as it runs its course. Get some decongestants, pain relievers, humidifiers and rest. You can also let your allergies run its course, but that is a long course to run."
While allergy sufferers can take anti-histamines, eye drops and nasal sprays for temporary relief, allergy shots provide a permanent fix. Dr. Rotskoff specializes in immunotherapy, which is a regimen of allergy shots or drops over a period of time that gradually builds an immunity to allergens. Over time, a person will no longer be affected by allergens.
If you have experienced symptoms for longer than two weeks, then it is time to see Dr. Rotskoff at the Clarity Allergy Center in Chicago. Knowing that your allergies are not a cold is the first step in finding relief.