All year round, many people suffer from a sore throat, stuffy nose, and congestion. However, telling the difference between allergies and a cold can be challenging. How can people know the difference? And when should patients make an appointment with an ENT?
Allergies and colds can produce some similar symptoms, such as sneezing and sore throats. But there are some key ways to tell the difference between the two. First, allergies are never accompanied by a fever, while colds sometimes are. Additionally, allergies can cause itchy, watery eyes, a symptom not associated with colds. Finally, the biggest difference between the two ailments is how long the symptoms last.
A few days vs a few weeks
Usually, cold symptoms don’t last for more than 2 weeks. Allergy symptoms last for longer periods, often up to 6 weeks or as long as a person is exposed to the allergen. If a sore throat is popping up at the same time every year, this could be a clue that the trigger is an allergen. In the springtime, many people experience allergies to pollen. If a person is allergic to dust, mold, or pet dander, symptoms may worsen in the winter months when people are less likely to open windows and get fresh air circulating indoors.
How common are colds?
Nationwide, most adults experience 2-3 colds per year, with children experiencing even more. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold, and treatment involves symptom management. Over-the-counter medications, staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and using a humidifier can all help ease cold symptoms.
Although allergies and colds have different causes, people who suffer from allergies are more likely to catch the common cold. If a person doesn’t seek treatment for a cold, there is a risk that the person will develop a sinus infection, pneumonia, or bronchitis. Because of this, if symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, people should make an appointment with a healthcare provider.
Treatment for allergies
Once people identify an allergy, part of a treatment plan involves avoiding allergy triggers. If an allergen cannot be avoided entirely, patients may take decongestants or antihistamines to help manage symptoms. Doctors may also recommend nasal sprays to decrease inflammation and control congestion.
When to see an ENT
Typically, if allergy or cold symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, patients should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. An ENT specialist can diagnose the cause of the symptoms and provide treatment options.