I've talked to many people over the years about this specific issue. Many times people will tell me they never had allergies in their entire life and then all of a sudden they are experiencing allergy or cold type symptoms but have attributed it having general “Winter Crud”. Many of the symptoms of a cold and allergies are the same so how do you know? Let’s break it down:
What is the difference between a Cold and Allergies?
Colds: A Virus that gets into your body and your immune system attacks it.
1. Common symptoms include cough, sore throat, and a runny, and/or stuffy nose.
2. Colds also last anywhere from 7 to 10.
3. Colds can come on quickly and tend to taper off quickly as well.
4. Sneezing and itchy watery eyes are less likely to be symptoms.
5. Many times people can experience body aches and even a fever when they have a severe cold.
Allergies: Caused by an overactive immune system. Your body, for whatever reason, mistakes harmless substances such as dust or pollen for germs and attacks them. Your body releases chemicals such as histamine (same as when you get a cold).
1. Symptoms include inflammation of the sinus cavities, congested or runny nose (drainage), coughing, and sneezing.
2. Allergies will never give someone a fever or cause body aches, while a cold sometimes does.
3. If a person does have a sore throat, it is usually because they are experiencing post nasal drip.
4. Allergies show up around the same time every year. Usually last for a season, or at least four to six weeks.
A few important facts to consider:
1. It is very possible to develop allergies later in life.
This is something I stress to people. The reason why is because people are usually born with the genetic potential to get allergies if at least one of their parents also has allergies. People can be exposed to allergens all their lives but it can take a long time for them to eventually react to pollen or dust mites.
2. Main winter allergens are dust, pet dander, and mold.
When people experience winter allergies, it's usually because they have allergies that last year-round but it usually gets worse because we're inside more and there's not a lot of ventilation to help with clearing the air.
3. Focus on bedding is important since we spend up to 8 hours at a time in the same place so there is more potential to exposure to allergens.
- Cleaning bedding more often and in hot water once a week will help to kill dust mites.
- Keeping pets off of the bed is also very helpful.
- Throwing away moldy shower curtains, bleaching any visibly moldy areas.
- Cleaning out air ducts once a year are also helpful ways of reducing allergens in your home.
4. Mold is another fall trigger.
You may think of mold growing in your basement or bathroom or any other damp areas in the house but mold spores also love wet spots outside. Piles of damp leaves and even grass are ideal breeding grounds for mold.
5. Don’t forget dust mites!
While they are common during the humid summer months, they can get stirred into the air the first time you turn on your heat in the fall. Dust mites can trigger sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.
6. School is Back in Session Going back to school can also trigger allergies in kids because mold and dust mites are common in schools.
Hopefully you find these facts and tips informative and helpful and then next time you feel that tickle in your throat or an annoying stuffy nose, you can figure out why by process of elimination and be on the road to recovery a lot sooner when you know what to treat and how to treat it.