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Spring allergies or common cold? How to spot the difference

Spring allergies or common cold? How to spot the difference

By Staff reports on April 2, 2024

As flowers bloom and leaves sprout on tree branches, a common cold can often be confused with seasonal allergies.

As with any illness, it’s important to know the difference between cold and allergy symptoms so that you can get appropriate treatment this spring.

Felicia Tapp, a nurse practitioner with Union Medical Center – Center for Pediatrics, spoke to radio program host Chris Woodson on WBCU to highlight those distinctions for area residents.

With seasonal allergies, someone may have a runny nose, but not with a fever and body aches. Someone may have watery eyes, but not as severe as with the common cold.

Common symptoms of allergies include nasal congestion and a runny nose. With the common cold, symptoms include more body aches, fever and fatigue, Tapp said.

Even knowing the difference between what causes these two ailments can be beneficial.

A cold is a virus that spreads through the community. An allergic reaction is a body’s response to allergens, such as pollen, dust, smoke and pet dander.

“With either situation, watch your symptoms,” Tapp said. “Evaluate yourself, and if symptoms last more than 10 days, it’s time to be seen.”

Or if you suspect allergies, but experience secondary symptoms like ear pain, you could have an ear infection or pneumonia.

Treatment of the common cold involves rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking nasal decongestants.

“Unfortunately, when you have a cold, you may have nasty mucus and drainage,” Tapp said. “That’s because when you get a cold, your body increases production of mucus to expel the virus, so it’s your body’s way of protecting itself.”

For allergies, a nasal steroid can help with watery eyes, but the most effective treatment is simply limiting how much you are exposed to the allergen, Tapp said.

As we head into the spring season, Tapp wants everyone to focus on health and safety tips to avoid the common cold altogether. Healthy habits like washing hands and limiting contact with high-touch surfaces should be top of mind, as well as controlling how often children put toys and other objects into their mouths.

To schedule your child’s well-visit or seek medical care for symptoms that last for several days, call Union Medical Center – Center for Pediatrics at 864-429-8846.

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