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BellaOnline's Allergies and Colds Editor

Is it a cold or allergy?

Colds and allergies have a lot in common. They both make us feel miserable and keep us guessing if we have a cold or allergy. Whether you have one or the other is important to know because colds are contagious. Others in your life don’t have to worry about catching a bug if you are suffering from allergies.

Allergies are not contagious because they are your own immune system’s reaction to certain allergens. These are normally harmless things, such as plants, animals or foods. When your body reacts, chemicals are released that produce symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. On the other hand, a cold is contagious because 99 percent of the time it is caused by a virus, as opposed to bacteria.

The confusion between the two is created because they both cause runny noses, sneezing and nasal congestion. But they are some signs to look for that can help you tell the difference between them.

With allergies, you probably will have:
• Watery, itchy eyes.
• Runny nose with clear mucous.
• Itchy nose, ears and throat (especially the palate of the roof of the mouth).
• No fever.
• Sneezing that occurs in rapid, multiple sequences.
• Symptoms that last longer than 7 to 10 days.
• Symptoms that occur every year at about the same time. For example, you develop symptoms every fall when ragweed blooms.
• Symptoms that subside when you get away from certain allergens.

Signs that it’s a cold include:
• Fever.
• Thick, yellowish mucous from the nose.
• Symptoms that generally last less than two weeks.
• Sore throat.
• Muscle aches and pains.

Treatment options for allergies and colds are another difference. For colds, there is no cure but medications can help alleviate symptoms. Try decongestants for congestion; antihistamines for runny nose; and cough syrup or suppressants for coughing. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.

Symptoms of mild allergies usually can be treated with over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines or nasal sprays. If allergies are affecting the quality of your life, then schedule a visit with your doctor. Consider seeing a specialist, called an allergist, who can help figure out what allergens are causing your problems.

The allergist may give you a scratch or prick test where tiny amounts of certain allergens are inserted into the skin with needles. The ones you are allergic to will produce red blotches on the skin. Blood tests also are used to determine the source of your allergies.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Sheree Welshimer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sheree Welshimer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Sheree Welshimer for details.

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