How do you know if those annoying symptoms the result of allergies, or are they from a cold?
Written by Dr. Eric Lewis, Guest Columnist to the Asheville Citizen-Times
March 27, 2012
Spring is upon us, and I am looking forward to a very beautiful one this year in Western North Carolina. Flowers are blooming, green grass is growing and birds are chirping, along with the return of longer, warmer, sunnier days. As you can tell, I am excited.
But countering my excitement is a more suspicious player in the new season: the human nose. Sniffling, sneezing, runny noses may find objection to all this spring growth. Joining its complaint may be itchy, watery eyes, a scratchy throat and sinus aches and pressure.
Yes, it’s time for seasonal allergies to flare.
This is a tough time of year for a lot of allergy sufferers here in Asheville. I know a lot of people whose positive feelings about spring are tempered by all of the Kleenex they keep at hand.
But are those annoying symptoms the result of allergies, or are they from a cold?
With the unseasonably warm winter that’s just ended, we have noticed a curious trend here in the mountains. Despite the lack of cold temperatures, the cold, virus and flu season has been worse this year — in some cases, significantly worse. We have heard many stories of people with lingering coughs, colds and that uncomfortable aching, sore and just crummy feeling in general.
So as we enter a season with even warmer and wetter weather, it may be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies.
Nasal symptoms like runniness or congestion can be the result of either a cold or allergies. Symptoms can also be felt in the sinuses, ears or throat in both cases. The same holds true for coughing and fatigue.
How do you know the difference? One telling clue is a fever. A fever is one of the body’s main defenses against an infection, to kill off viruses or bacteria. The viruses that produce symptoms of the common cold often produce a low-grade fever (usually 99-102 F) whereas allergies do not produce a fever.
Along with a temperature, colds are often marked by body aches and pain. The deep soreness often goes beyond the general fatigue of allergies.
As for allergies, a dead giveaway is if something itches. If you want to scratch or rub your eyes, ears, nose or throat, it’s probably due to allergies and the accompanying histamine. Histamine is a chemical released by the immune system in response to an allergen like pollen, dust, dust mites or pet dander.
Timing can also give us important clues. Histamine from allergies can produce a lot of localized inflammation, often in a hurry, sometimes with a clear, watery discharge.
Even though allergy symptoms can come on quickly, they will often last as long as a person is exposed to the offending allergen. This may become very aggravating if symptoms may persist for a long period of time without getting better.
Colds tend to develop more slowly and are marked by yellow or darker mucus. A virus can run its course in a couple of days, if mild, but may take longer if it’s stronger or if the person has a difficult time in recovery.
Hopefully these clues will help you to identify why your symptoms are occurring and will help you to recover more quickly. After all, a beautiful spring is all around for us.
Eric Lewis is a naturopathic physician with Lewis Family Natural Health in Asheville. To learn more or make an appointment, call 298-4800 or visit www.lewisnaturalhealth.com.