The coming of spring also brings the potential for allergies and the common cold. Both share similar symptoms, which can make it difficult to know what is causing your discomfort. In order to prevent sharing viruses and infections with friends and family, especially older adults who can easily catch both, it’s important to learn the differences between the two conditions.
While there are a lot of similarities, the main difference is the cause. Colds are caused by viruses, making them contagious. You experience the symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, stuffiness) when your body is defending itself against the cold.
On the other hand, allergies are not contagious. They are caused by an immune response to allergens such as dust, pollen or mold. Your body treats these allergens like germs, and a chemical made in your immune system called histamine is released. The main goal of histamines is to remove allergens from your body or off your skin, and the result can be sneezing, coughing, headaches and itchy eyes – some of which mimic a cold. This is why many allergy medications include antihistamines.
The below table from WebMD is a great reference point in determining whether you’re suffering from allergies or a cold. The original article can be accessed here.
Having an allergy test performed by an expert allergist can help you determine what you’re allergic to so you can best avoid the trigger or take preventive allergy medicine prior to exposure. Colds can be prevented by diligently washing your hands, avoiding other sick people and keeping your surroundings clean and sanitized, whether at work or at home.