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Summer Sniffles? Allergies or a Cold?

Summer Sniffles? Allergies or a Cold?

You want to savour every last drop of summer, but you're coughing and your nose is runny. Could it be a late-summer cold or allergies kicking in?

Symptom Overlap

Colds and allergies share many symptoms, including a runny, stuffy or congested nose, sneezing and coughing, which is why you may mistake your seasonal allergy for a common cold. It’s a tough call. But colds and allergies are treated differently, so determining the correct diagnosis will help you to treat appropriately.

The Cold Vs Allergies Puzzle

Clues that it’s allergies and not a cold include itchy, watery eyes; dark, swollen bags under the eyes; allergy salute—a crease which forms at the bridge of the nose; and fits of sneezing (gesundheit!).

Symptoms like fever and general aches and pains are never experienced when suffering from allergies but can sometimes occur during a cold.

But the easiest way to tell the two apart is how long symptoms linger. A cold typically comes on gradually after contact with a virus and hangs around for 3-14 days while an allergy begins immediately after exposure to an allergen and can be a pest for as long as you are exposed to the allergen. Unless allergy symptoms are treated correctly, they tend to persist.

ID Your Symptoms

Be sure you have a good handle on what your triggers are. To understand what may be causing your cold or allergies speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

If it turns out your symptoms are allergy-related, here are some tips to help you manage.

Summer’s Last Hurrah

Squeeze in every bit of warm-weather backyard or vacation fun without being sidelined by a sneezing fit.

  • To keep pollen and other allergens from landing in eyes and hair, release your inner glam in oversized sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. If you’re driving, shut the windows and crank up the A/C.
  • Enjoy outdoor activities in late-afternoon when pollen counts tend to be lowest. Stay indoors until after midday, particularly in the pollen season and on windy days.
  • Keep an eye on pollen levels to help you know what to expect for any given day. The Australian Pollen Forecast website can help.
  • Make sure your allergy medications, tissues, nasal spray and eye drops are on-hand, just in case.

Autumn…Already?

With barbecues and pool parties still in full swing, it’s hard to believe that the autumn allergy season has already gotten underway in some areas. But ragweed, grass, and tree pollens thrive on the warm days and cool nights of early autumn. Be aware that pollen counts can be highest on calm, hot, sunny days. Ragweed pollen has been detected as far as 650km out to sea and up to 3km up in the atmosphere. Although pollen can be blown long distances on windy days, most pollen is deposited within a short distance of its source.

On the Outside Looking in

Pollen and other seasonal allergens can collect on your clothes and hair during time spent at work, friends’ homes, and outdoors. So it’s not a bad idea when returning home to leave your pollen-covered shoes at the front door, toss your clothes in the laundry and to take a shower or bath. Or, if you’re pinched for time, to at least wash your hands and face well.

Keep reading: Allergies May Run in the Family