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Cold or allergy?

Cold or allergy?

Blocked noses and tickly coughs are often sure signs of a cold, but as the weather warms up and the pollen count increases, you could actually be suffering from an allergy. Knowing how to spot the difference is important because the types of medication you take or ways of treating the symptoms can vary even if they seem similar.

Firstly, colds can be caused by hundreds of different viruses and what leads to them in summer can be totally different to how they occur in winter. But whatever does kick in, your immune system goes on the attack and results in the classic symptoms such nasal congestion and coughing.

Allergies however, are caused by an overactive immune system mistaking particles of dust or pollen for germs, and releasing histamine to fight them. This can also cause a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

"The most important difference between cold symptoms and allergies is that colds never last longer than two weeks," pharmacist Pritpal Thind from Caregrange Pharmacy said. "If you are experiencing symptoms after 14 days, then definitely make an appointment with your doctor, as it could be an allergic reaction to something.”

There are certain symptoms that you can definitely assign to one or the other though. For instance, itchy eyes are unquestionably more allergy than cold, whereas fatigue is a sign of a cold, not an allergy. The same can be said for aches or pains. A fever or temperature also wouldn't be an allergy it's more likely to be a cold.

Allergies seem to be able to last all year round now, so here's some tips on how to deal with them if you feel them creeping in.

Find out the daily rankings of allergens by clicking on the National Allergy Bureau’s website. Stay indoors when levels are high or very high for those that you’re sensitive to.

Wash your hair at night to rinse out the pollen. This is particularly important if you wear gel or mousse in your hair as these kinds of products can trap pollen in the strands.

If you suffer dust mite allergies, try washing your bedding on a 140 degree wash once a week. A study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that this temperature wiped them all out.

If your allergens kick in around pets, ban them from your bedroom, make sure they get groomed regularly and if things are really bad, consider replacing a carpeted room with wood flooring or tiles.

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