Cold and allergy symptoms often overlap, so it’s easy to confuse cold symptoms with allergies and vice versa. Understanding the cause of your symptoms helps you choose the right treatment. It also gives you a better picture of your overall health.
Doctors use the 5 factors below to help distinguish between colds and allergies.
1. When did you start to feel bad?
If you remember being around someone who had an upper respiratory infection a few days before they started feeling sick, you may have contracted a viral infection. Viruses are spread by contact with sneezing, coughing, and contaminated surfaces, such as door handles. Allergies, on the other hand, can start immediately after coming into contact with triggers like pollen. If you think you might be experiencing a seasonal allergy, check the pollen count in your area; if the levels are high, allergies may be to blame.
2. What are your symptoms?
Both allergies and colds can cause a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, and fatigue. Itchy eyes, postnasal drip, and dark circles under the eyes are more common with allergies. The symptoms most commonly caused by a virus include a sore throat, cloudy or discolored nasal discharge, fever, and general aches and pains.
3. How long have you been affected?
A cold usually lasts from 3 to 14 days. Allergy symptoms can last for weeks or months as long as you are exposed to the allergen to which you are reacting.
4. Are you treating multiple symptoms?
For a cold, get more rest and drink plenty of fluids, such as water, tea, or brothy soup. For allergies, frequent showering and changing clothes can help because allergens stick to skin, hair, and clothing. For both colds and allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers can help you feel better, although they won’t make your cold go away any faster. And no matter what ails you, avoid medications that treat multiple symptoms, especially if you don’t have some of the symptoms the medication is meant to treat.
If home treatments don’t work and you still don’t feel well, please contact our Advice Nurse Service.
5. How can I prevent colds and allergies?
To avoid catching a virus and spreading colds:
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, which are the areas of your body most vulnerable to germs.
To avoid seasonal allergies:
- Try to limit your contact with the allergens to which you react.
- If your allergies bother you a lot, immunotherapy (such as allergy shots) can help reduce or even completely prevent irritating symptoms.
Know your pathways to care
We’re here to help you get better fast, with self-care tools and information, and convenient options for visits or advice when you need it. Easy ways to get help for your cold or allergy symptoms include:
- Consultant Nursing Service: Call a nurse, who will assess your symptoms and recommend treatments or other steps to take. Available 24/7.
- visit online: Complete a questionnaire about your symptoms. A doctor will provide you with a diagnosis, a treatment plan and, if necessary, a prescription, without having to go to your doctor’s office.
If symptoms become severe, Kaiser Permanente urgent care centers are also available.
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