Is It an Allergy—or Is It a Cold?
Spring has sprung—or it’s just about to. That means spring allergies are “blooming,” too. But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a cold and a seasonal allergy, also known as hay fever. Here are some signs to look for and ways to find relief.
Know the signs. Both colds and allergies can cause sneezing, stuffiness, or a runny nose. But there are telltale differences between a cold and seasonal allergy. Ask yourself these five questions. The more times you answer “yes,” the greater the chance the culprit is a seasonal allergy.1
Just when you’re itching to get outdoors after a long winter, you may be better off staying inside. Try to limit your outdoor activities on days with high pollen counts—especially between 10 am and 4 pm, when pollen counts are highest. Windy days are the worst because wind can really kick up the pollen. You can find pollen counts for your area through the National Allergy Bureau (NAB). Here you can also sign up for personalized email pollen alerts.2
In addition, keep windows closed at home and in your car. For extra protection, you might try adding a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to your furnace or air conditioner. It also helps to take an afternoon or early evening shower to keep pollen off your pillow. Likewise, at the end of the day, wipe off any pets that have been outdoors. And, take off your shoes before coming inside to keep from tracking in pollen.3,4
Allergy relief aids. So right about now, you may be thinking: But how do I get relief? I can advise you about over-the-counter (OTC) remedies. Antihistamines treat symptoms such as sneezing and itchy nose or throat. Nasal or oral decongestants can help with nasal stuffiness. Eye drops relieve itchiness. Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you have about side effects or how long you can safely use these drugs.
If OTC drugs don’t do the trick, you might want to see an allergist, a doctor who specializes in treating allergies. Some people need other medications or allergy shots to feel better.4
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.