Is It An Allergy Or A Cold?

The spring season is triggering allergies around the U.S., and CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Dave Hnida of CBS Station KCNC-TV in Denver reports that people often confuse the symptoms with those of a common cold.

But nagging symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, and persistent cough are also signs of allergy.

How can you tell the difference between an allergy and a cold?

Here's a comparison:

  • Colds usually come with a fever and yellowish nasal mucous. Allergies usually come with watery eyes, clear nasal mucous, and eye, nose and throat itchiness.
  • Cold symptoms usually clear up in about a week. Allergy symptoms are more persistent.
The symptoms may not sound all that serious. But, if left untreated, they can make a person feel pretty miserable.

For instance, 23-year-old Erika Ortiz's spring allergies are so bad that they sometimes trigger asthma attacks.

"I start sneezing," she says. "Once I start sneezing, my nose gets stuffy. My eyes get watery. My chest starts getting tight. That's when I start wheezing."

Erika's doctor, David Valacer, explains that, like many people, Erika's spring allergies are usually triggered by environmental changes.

"As the trees flower, they're producing pollen and relying on the wind to carry this pollen to other trees, fertilize the flowers, and make new seeds to grow new trees," he adds. "So, it's that pollen that's being carried on the wind that's causing these allergy problems."

Many people don't get this type of allergy until they are in their 20s or 30s. If you think you are one of them and the symptoms are mild, try an over-the-counter remedy. But be careful. Many brands cause drowsiness or dull alertness.

Without medication, try the following to relieve allergy symptoms:

  • Wear sunglasses during the day to help keep pollen out of your eyes.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom at night since they can carry pollen on their fur.
  • Shower and shampoo before going to bed to get the pollens off your body.
If over-the-counter medications don't work and your symptoms worsen, see your doctor, who may be able to prescribe an oral or nasal antihistamine.