Do You Have Fall Allergies or a Cold? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on October 20, 2015

Do You Have Fall Allergies or a Cold?

Do You Have Fall Allergies or a Cold?

If you’re suffering with a runny nose,
scratchy throat and nonstop sneezing,
you need to figure out which ailment you have.

It’s officially fall. It’s officially fall. With the change in seasons, if you’re coughing and sneezing you may be confused: do you have a cold or fall allergies?

Fall Allergies

When summer winds down and the leaves start changing, ragweed pollen fills the air, leaving you coughing, sneezing and itching. Ragweed starts releasing its pollen in August and it lingers well into the fall.

Mold can also trigger fall allergies – mold in damp areas of your house and in wet areas outside, like piles of damp leaves, are culprits. Additionally, dust mites, like other allergens, can trigger runny noses, sneezing and wheezing, especially if they get mixed into the air inside your home when you turn on your heat.

The Common Cold

Meanwhile, the change in season also signifies the beginning of cold season. You catch a cold when a virus attaches to the lining of your nose or throat. You can pick up a cold-causing virus from another person who is infected with the virus, typically if you touch a surface that has germs on it – including a keyboard, doorknob or any shared surface – and then touch your nose or mouth. You can also catch a cold if you're near someone who is sick and sneezes into the air.

So if you’re suffering with a runny nose, scratchy throat and nonstop sneezing and looking for a remedy, you need to first figure out which ailment you have.

How to Tell the Difference

How Long it Lasts

Seasonal allergies can last days or even months – it all depends on how long you’re in contact with your allergy triggers. A cold typically lasts anywhere from three to 14 days.

When it Starts

If you come down with a cold, the symptoms will take a few days to appear after you become infected with the virus. Allergies can begin immediately after coming in contact with your triggers.

The Symptoms

If you have a cold, you’ll likely to have a cough, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose. You may also experience fatigue and body aches. Very rarely will you have a fever or itchy, watery eyes.

With seasonal allergies, you’ll experience itchy, watery eyes and a runny stuffy nose. Only sometimes, coughing, fatigue and a sore throat will accompany allergies. If you have allergies, you won’t experience body aches or a fever.

The most important difference between the two is that colds don’t usually last longer than 14 days. If you’re still experiencing symptoms after two weeks, they may be allergy symptoms or signs of another issue, in which case you should call your doctor.

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