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Have you ever felt a tickling sensation at the back of your throat and new that a cold was developing? I use to have it all the time and I assumed I was getting a simple cold. Yet, I wondered why it never turned into a cold.
Allergies can often be confused for a cold because the initial symptoms can be similar. They include a sore throat, an overproduction of mucus, and a stuffy nose. The confusion is a simple mistake and can end up costing a lot of money from doctors visits and medicine.
In this article, I’ll share a few reasons why I confused my allergies with a cold. These reasons can be used as a “self-assessment” checklist so you don’t waste time making doctors appointments and buying cold medicine.
Do I Have Allergies Or A Cold
Before my allergies develop into a year-round problem I only experienced symptoms seasonally.
My cold seemed to manifest every year at the same time. Some people would call this normal but I was skeptical. Was it really a cold? How come it never materialized?
My cold or allergy symptoms weren’t severe but they were certainly an annoyance and were always accompanied by fatigue. My main symptoms occurred in late winter and late summer when the heating and air conditioning was running. The symptoms included:
A scratchy throat
Repetitive clearing of the throat
Soreness when I swallowed
But something strange occurred. The symptoms never became a full cold. They would stay the same for a few weeks then disappear. I thought my body had fought them off but maybe it was just my allergies.
In the sections below I’ll outline a few scenarios that can help you assess whether you have a cold or allergies. Use it as a checklist to evaluate yourself and your cold or allergies.
Cold Or Allergies: Does It Occur At The Same Time Every Year?
Most healthy people experience some form of a cold every year. Colds tend to be more common in the winter when people spend more time indoors. Colds can be recognized when other people at school or work are being hit by the bug.
You should be aware if you’re the only person at work or school who is experiencing the symptoms.
My allergy symptoms began as a seasonal problem and my symptoms would occur much like a cold. I’d get a runny nose, a scratchy throat, and I’d wait for the full-blown cold to develop. But it never did and I wondered why?
As my allergy symptoms progressed into more severe allergies I noticed my cold-like symptoms became a year-round problem. I was constantly clearing my throat and my sinuses were producing more and more mucous (watering eyes, stuffy nose, more ear wax, and an inflamed throat).
My allergies were causing rhinitis and post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip occurs when mucus from the nose drips down the back to the throat. It can cause a sore throat, coughing, and repetitive throat clearing.
Cold Or Allergies: Does It Appear When The Air Conditioning And Heater Are Used
Early in my life, my cold or allergy symptoms appeared at the same time as using the HVAC. The machine was only used for a few months in winter and in summer but within a few days of using the heater or air conditioning I’d begin clearing my throat and my nose would get stuffy.
As I learned later, my family was using a cheap porous allergy filter and it wasn’t catching the dust in the house (read about the best HVAC allergy filters here). The HVAC blew dust and allergens around the house and gave me cold-like symptoms that made me feel miserable. I thought I had a cold but it was really allergies!
Cold or Allergies: Does It Manifest Into A Real Cold?
One of the easiest ways to determine if your symptoms are due to a cold or due to allergies is to monitor your symptoms over the course of a few days. A cold usually begin at the nose or throat and works its way to the chest where it loosens up and disappears.
Allergies don’t make it to the chest (unless you have asthma and breathing problems). Allergy symptoms will remain in the nose and in the back of the throat. This can occur for days on end without much change in symptoms.
As a general rule, a cold will move throughout the respiratory system and allergy symptoms will stay in one place.
Cold or Allergies: Is It Worse At A Certain Time Of Day?
Another way to discern whether you’re suffering from a cold or allergies is to examine when you’re experiencing your symptoms. A cold will slowly appear and continue to several days/weeks with symptoms throughout the day.
Allergy symptoms are often more pronounced during certain times of the day. I grew up with dust mite allergy and always had a cough in the morning
I’d wake up with a sore throat and congested nose and I’d find myself clearing my throat repetitively. By early afternoon my allergy symptoms would disappear only to return the next morning (it took me way too long to figure out this pattern!).
Cold or Allergies: Do You Clear Your Throat or Cough?
Throughout this article, I’ve mentioned that one of the main allergy symptoms I experienced was clearing my throat. I always had a sore throat, but I rarely had a real cold. Why was this?
If you don’t pay attention you might think you have a minor cough, but allergy symptoms like post nasal drip can be confusing and they shouldn’t be treated as a cold. Throat clearing can become an involuntary habit and we might not notice we’re doing it.
A full cough, caused by a real cold, requires a lot more effort by the body and should be treated as more serious.
Tips For Allergy Treatment
Can Allergies Turn Into A Cold
Environmental allergies usually persist for a few weeks. They can wear down your immune system, making you feel lethargic. A tired immune system can be susceptible to catching a cold or the flu. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Get plenty of rest and try to figure out what you’re allergic to.
Keep An Allergy Journal
One of the most important things I did was to keep an allergy journal. I experienced allergy symptoms for years. Every year I’d think to myself “did I feel this way last year”? But I could never remember.
Once I began to write down my symptoms with dates, I could look back at the previous year to see if I was experiencing the same symptoms. I’d recommend an allergy journal to anyone who suspects they have allergies or wants to better understand their symptoms.
Take Vitamin C And Antihistamines (for allergies)
Vitamin C helps repair tissue and build our immune system. Whether you have a cold or allergies, Vitamin C can help. When I feel like I’m developing a cold, or when I’m experiencing allergies, I begin taking a daily Vitamin C supplement. I think it helps my body recover (check out my article on the best supplements for allergies).
Antihistamines are also beneficial but they won’t help for a cold. Antihistamines work great for allergies because they reduce the allergic response (stuffy nose, excess mucous, itchy skin). I take a daily antihistamine and it helps keep my allergy symptoms at bay.
We’ve all experienced a cold. We get a sore sensation in the back of our throat and before you know it we’re blowing our nose and coughing.
Even though many people experience allergies, most people don’t know they have them. And they don’t understand the symptoms.
Some people can even confuse allergies for a cold. Persistent symptoms without a real cough can be a telling sign that you don’t have a cold. Clearing of the throat, seasonality, and time of day can all be good things to consider to determine whether you have allergies or a cold.
Imagine clearing your throat for years – it’s definitely not a cold. I always had an itchy throat and a stuffy nose but I ignored the symptoms.
An allergy journal can help you figure out why you have symptoms and Vitamin C can help you recover.
Thanks for reading another Dust Mite Solutions article. I aim to share my experiences with you to reduce the impact of allergies. Don’t suffer for years like I did!