Each year, roughly 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. But with overlapping cold symptoms like sneezy, runny noses, congestion and feeling lethargic, how do you tell the difference and get yourself the treatment you need to start feeling better? The answer is clearer than that goopy stuff running out of your nose.
“It’s ironic that an allergic reaction is called ‘hay fever’ when you’re not allergic to hay and you don’t have a fever – if you do, it’s an infection,” said Dr. Morris Nejat of the New York Allergy & Sinus Centers.
Dr. Nejat advised to keep a close eye on your, um, “goop.” “If you have stringy, yellow goop coming out of you, it’s likely an infection. But if your mucus is clear, white and runny, it’s allergies. It’s not a coincidence if you get the same symptoms every year at the same time, either. It’s allergies,” he said.
There’s some grey area between a cold and allergies, unfortunately. “Coughing could be either one,” Dr. Nejat told the Daily News. “If your symptoms are lasting more than a week, see an allergist. Allergies can actually cause sinus infections – if you’re having bad, persistent symptoms, get an allergy test and find out how to prevent or diminish those symptoms. We can make some allergies go away with shots,” he said.
The “what” on the table outlines the onset and duration of allergies vs. colds. For colds, “symptoms develop within a few days, onset is abrupt.” Where allergy signs are more “gradual…depending on exposure and…one’s sensitivity to allergen.”
What’s most interesting in the chart is the list of differing and overlapping symptoms: congestion and stuffiness, fatigue, throat discomfort and coughing are all possible side effects of allergies and countless colds and viruses. But body aches, pains and fevers are never symptoms of allergies.
“In an exam, I’ll look for colored fluids and face tenderness. If it’s been only about a week with these, plus loss of appetite, maybe fever and the chills, it’s an infection,” Dr. Bassett told the Daily News. “But puffiness, what I call ‘allergy face,’ and itchiness aren’t,” he said.
“We might not be able to prevent a cold but get immunized for allergies, take vitamin D supplements and some Flonase to be proactive and avoid allergies before they start. Women get it, men don’t seem to,” said Dr. Bassett.