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Colds vs Allergies: How to tell the difference?

20180730
Tomorrow’s a work day, but you’re not feeling well. Another ‘tardy’ remark on your records is out of the question, let alone taking a leave-of-absence for a checkup. You’re coughing, sneezing, your nose is stuffy, you have nasal congestion and so much more. What would you do? Right! You Google and then self-medicate, sleep and hope that tomorrow, everything will be alright. That’s a hit or miss thing because you’re not even sure if what you have is a cold or allergy. So, what’s the difference?
What is a cold?
The common cold is caused by a virus. Yes, a virus and not a bacteria as some may think. A host of viruses are capable of giving you the common cold – mostly harmless, but are uncomfortable in different degrees. The most common are the rhinoviruses. Manifestation and severity may differ from case to case, but there are common symptoms generally shared by all types of colds.
  • If you have allergies or prone to allergies, you may have higher chances of catching a cold.
  • Colds are passed on from person to person, when droplets containing the virus is spread by an infected host through coughing or sneezing.
  • Usually, the average duration for a cold is about a week. Anything more than that, your cold virus may have triggered or caused a more concerning infection – usually in the upper respiratory tract.
  • Some severe form of colds may also bring along headache, body pain or fever.
  • You will usually have coughing, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose and occasional sore throat.
How to prevent colds?
  • Frequent and proper handwashing.
  • Disinfect common areas or equipment, especially if someone in your living or working zone has colds.
  • Don’t share straws, drinking glasses, spoons, forks or anything that might facilitate the transfer of the cold virus.
  • Use disposable wipes or tissues when sneezing and immediately discard once used.
  • Eat well, eat right and exercise.
What are allergies?
We all have immune systems and it’s a wonderful thing. It protects us from anything harmful like bacteria, viruses and others that might make us ill. However, in some instances, our immune system reacts adversely to some external or internal triggers, known as allergens. When this happens, our body releases a chemical known as histamines – these chemicals are the cause of allergy symptoms. Common reactions are rashes, inflammation and other minor irritations. In some cases, a severe reaction like anaphylactic shock, can be life threatening.
Allergies and colds share several symptoms, that is why people are sometimes confused if they have colds or allergies. Here are some commonalities.
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes
How to prevent allergies?
You can keep a log of possible allergens and track your reactions so you can avoid them. A doctor can help you identify these triggers so you can get appropriate medical intervention.
How to tell the difference between allergies and colds?
Since colds and allergies share a lot of common symptoms, it’s best to get familiar with the ones that are unique in each condition.
  • You have higher chances of getting aches and pains in colds, as well as fever and sore throat.
  • Allergies will most likely cause skin rashes, itchy eyes and wheezing.
You may also consider the time of the year. Though you can get colds in summer, it is more prevalent during the wet season, where viruses have the right conditions to thrive and multiply. Another way to differentiate colds and allergies is the duration of symptoms. Colds usually last for a few days to a week, while allergies will linger until the allergen is removed or you get specific treatment. Early intervention is critical. But who wants to go to the doctor’s office for a common cold where traffic and long waiting time are expected? If you have access to telemedicine services, it’s best you consult over the telephone or via video calling mobile apps. The same can be said for allergies, except for severe cases, it’s best to see your doctor face-to-face.
For more information, call our helpline at +63 2 705 0788, visit www.medgatephilippines.com or download Medgate APP from The App Store or Google Play Store.