You wake up sneezing and sniffling, with a nose that feels stuffy while also running like a faucet. It’s time for that common question we all face when those familiar symptoms arrive: is it hay fever, or have you come down with a cold?
It can be a tough call to make. Hay fever and the common cold are both forms of rhinitis, the broad medical term for a wide range of conditions that cause irritation and swelling of the nasal cavity, and they share many of the same symptoms. But they have vastly different causes, and they require different treatments and care if you want to experience fast and effective relief.
There are ways to determine the culprit of your sneezy, sniffly symptoms and get well on your way to feeling your best. Here are some tips to help you decide – is it hay fever or a cold?
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis, is actually an overreaction of the immune system. When you are exposed to environmental allergens – normally harmless substances like pollen, mold, or pet dander – your body sees them as an invader and creates chemicals called histamines to fight them off. These chemicals are responsible for causing those irritating symptoms, which can include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Dry cough
Hay fever is not contagious and is typically harmless, though symptoms can be severe. Common treatments include over the counter or prescription medications to manage your symptoms, as well as allergy immunotherapy to reduce your body’s reaction.
What is a cold?
The common cold is caused by one of over 200 different viruses. Like hay fever, cold symptoms don’t stem from the virus itself. Instead, it is your immune system’s aggressive reaction to the virus that causes things like:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore Throat
- Low-grade fever
- Body or muscle aches
A cold is extremely contagious, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. There is no cure for a cold, and treatments involve managing symptoms through nasal decongestants, analgesics, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest.
How to tell the difference between hay fever and a cold
Despite their similarities, there are a few factors that can help you determine the cause of your symptoms. If you’re wondering whether you have hay fever or the common cold, consider:
- Your symptoms. Hay fever will never cause a fever or generalized body aches. A cold is also more likely to cause coughing and sore throat, but it is less likely to cause itching of the face or eyes.
- Your mucus. Next, consider the color of your mucus. Hay fever is likely to cause buckets of thin, clear secretions while colds tend to cause mucus that is thick and yellow or green in color.
- The time of year. Colds tend to occur during fall and winter, when temperatures drop and most people congregate indoors. Hay fever can happen at any time but tends to be seasonal; if you feel ill during the same time each year, it’s likely due to allergies.
- How long you’ve been sick. Colds usually clear up in 7 to 10 days with proper home care. Allergies, on the other hand, can stick around for multiple weeks or even longer during peak seasons.
- Visit Urgent Care of Fairhope. If you still can’t determine the cause of your symptoms, visit our walk-in clinic at Urgent Care of Fairhope. Our experienced medical staff can help diagnose your illness and provide you with a treatment plan to speed up your recovery – all on your schedule and with exceptional customer service.