Was Your Cold Really Summer Allergies?

June 15,2016

A common cold and summer allergies have a lot in common and are often difficult to distinguish early on. Although colds are less common during the warmer months, viruses can still cause an upper respiratory infection regardless of the season. This means you should be just as vigilant in taking steps to prevent a cold during the summer months as you were during the winter months. Generally speaking, other than avoiding direct contact with someone who is already sick, washing your hands is still the most effective preventive measure that you can take year round.


Common Symptoms

If you've ever awaken to a stuffy nose or scratchy throat on a warm's summer morning, you may have wondered whether you were suffering from seasonal allergies or a common cold. After all, we all catch colds and distinguishing between the two is complicated by the similarity of symptoms, including:

  • Congestion
  • Post Nasal Drip
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Runny Nose
  • Scratchy Throat

Since their immune systems are still developing and they have exposure to other children, kids tend to catch more colds than adults do. This tendency seems to be true regardless of the time of year. But, just like adults, a cold can make their allergies worse and their allergies can make them more susceptible to catching a viral infection.

How Can You Tell?

Although we normally associate allergies with springtime, many plants and trees have high pollen production during the summer or fall. In addition, the occurrence of mold allergies and allergic reactions to dust mites can increase when it's cold outside and your house, workplace or school is all closed up. If you've noticed your respiratory system seems to go haywire at the same time each year, that's a good indicator that your symptoms are related to seasonal allergies. Plus, the time of year when everything is covered with a thick layer of yellow pollen is generally considered to be the height of allergy season.

So, how do we tell them apart and what should you do about them? If you have a fever (with or without body aches), you have an infection. Allergies can make you feel flush but a thermometer can determine if you have a fever. Either can cause an increase in mucus production, but a change from clear to discolored is a fairly reliable indicator of a viral infection, such as a rhinovirus. Cold symptoms will typically go away in about ten days without any specific treatment, where untreated allergy symptoms will last as long as you are exposed to things to which you are allergic.  

When to Seek Medical Attention

When your symptoms persist, it is time to seek medical attention from an immediate care facility like PrimeMed. Allergies often respond best to antihistamines and prescription nasal sprays where the common cold can normally be treated using over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The exceptions are secondary infections that can result from either condition and should be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. For any respiratory condition, you should avoid smoking, stay hydrated, gargle with warm salty water to soothe a sore throat and get plenty of rest.