Is It Springtime Allergies or a Cold?

While winters in New York can be long, spring inevitably rolls around, bringing with it long-awaited warmer temperatures, longer days, and pollen. If you develop cold-like symptoms this spring, it could signal seasonal allergies, which affect 10-30% of the global population.

Here at our practice, Dr. Alexa Lessow and our team of allergy specialists understand the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the common cold and allergies. And knowing these differences means you can get the treatment you need to breathe easier and feel better.

Here’s a look at some differences between springtime allergies and a cold.

The common cold

The common cold is exactly that — common. In fact, adults contract, on average, 2-3 colds per year, and kids contract eight or more per year as they grow up. A cold is a viral infection that most often strikes in winter and spring, which means there’s ample crossover during peak allergy season.

The symptoms of a cold often include:

The typical duration of a cold is about a week, though it can stretch to 10 days or more.

Springtime allergies

Springtime allergies, as you’ll see in a moment, often create the same symptoms as the common cold as your body reacts to expel what it deems to be a dangerous substance (an allergen). In most cases, the substance in question is pollen, which flies through the air during springtime as plants come back to life after a dormant winter.

The symptoms of springtime allergies include:

Many people also complain of feeling simply rundown or tired, which is a result of your body launching an attack against allergens.

Key differences between springtime allergies and a cold

While springtime allergies and colds share many symptoms, there are some differences you should note. First, if you often feel these symptoms around the same time of year (spring), year after year, this may signal far more than coincidental colds.

You should also note the duration of the symptoms — colds come on strong and resolve themselves over the following week, with symptoms gradually improving. With springtime allergies, as long as the pollen is in the air, you won’t experience any improvement in your symptoms.

Another key indicator is whether you develop a fever, which can occur with a cold, but not with allergies.

The symptoms of springtime allergies also tend to be focused around your eyes, nose, and throat, while the symptoms of a cold can affect your entire body. In fact, allergies don’t come with general body aches, which is one of the hallmarks of a cold. Please note, however, that both can lead to generalized fatigue.

Finding answers

The reason why it’s important to figure out whether you’re experiencing a cold or allergies is that there is much we can do to relieve your symptoms if they’re allergy-related. The first step to figuring this out is to come see us so that we can review your symptoms and run some simple allergy tests.

If we find that allergies are likely the cause of your discomfort, we can devise a plan to minimize their impact, now and in the future, such as:

If you have more questions about the differences between springtime allergies and the common cold, please contact our office on the Upper East Side of New York City.

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