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Cold vs. Allergies: How to Tell the Difference

When the sneezing just won’t stop, do you blame allergies or a cold? Colds and allergies cause similar symptoms, but they’re treated differently. Learning to tell the difference can help you seek out the right remedies in a timely manner. 

As a nasal and sinus specialist, Dr. Conrad McCutcheon knows that finding relief from nasal congestion — whether due to allergies, a cold, or chronic sinusitis  — begins by starting with the right diagnosis. Here’s how you can tell the difference between a cold and allergies.

Take all of your symptoms into account

Sneezing and even coughing can occur with both colds and allergies. To help identify whether you’re sick with a cold or suffering from allergies, consider all of your other symptoms. 

Symptoms that colds and allergies have in common include:

Colds — but not allergies — are more likely to cause:

Allergies — but not colds — are more likely to cause:

In addition to the symptoms you notice, it’s important to look at how long the symptoms last. Colds tend to dissipate after about a week, while allergies can continue for weeks in a given season or even year-round, depending on what triggers them.

Treating colds and allergies

The common cold is caused by a virus. Many viruses can cause colds, but the rhinovirus is one of the most common. There is no cure for the common cold. Instead, treatments are directed at alleviating symptoms. These include hydration, rest, consuming warm fluids like caffeine-free tea and soup, using a humidifier, and using hypertonic saline rinses or spray. You don’t need antibiotics for a cold unless you develop a secondary bacterial infection. 

Allergies, on the other hand, are treated differently. Once Dr. McCutcheon confirms your allergies with allergy testing, you may benefit from:

In addition to the above treatments, you can also manage your allergies by avoiding your triggers when possible. For example, if you’re allergic to dust mites, consider using an anti-allergic mattress cover for your bed.

Stuffy nose? Sneezing? Don’t ignore your symptoms!

Sneezing, watery eyes, and congestion are unpleasant symptoms regardless of the cause. If you’re tired of dealing with nasal congestion — whether you suspect allergies or not — we can help you breathe better.

To learn more about allergy testing and your treatment options, call 281-822-3777 to schedule an appointment at Memorial Village ENT. You can also request an appointment via our online booking tool.

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