Cold and allergy, especially allergic rhinitis or commonly known as hay fever, are two medical conditions that share rather similar symptoms but require different treatments. One of the obvious ways to differentiate them is by their recovery time.
While recovery from common cold generally takes time, hay fever lasts for as long as the allergen is present. As the weather turns hotter (and unpredictable) in our tropical climate, we share with you three quick and easy steps to identify and differentiate them.
1. Running Nose
Most common in both cold and allergic rhinitis is a running nose. The difference is in the colour and consistency of the discharge, and the recovery time. Commonly, anti-histamine offers quick relief to allergic rhinitis whereas a cold takes a longer time to recover.
2. Tired Or Watery Eyes
It is common for someone who has caught a cold to be fatigued by all the effort the body has put into fighting viral or bacterial infection. However, instead of tired eyes, someone with allergic rhinitis often experiences watery eyes.
Allergic rhinitis occurs when our immune system encounters allergens such as dust mites and pollen or irritants such as perfume and cigarette smoke. When this happens, the body releases histamines, a natural defensive trigger to eliminate the allergen, which unfortunately can also cause watery eyes.
Uncommon with cold, rashes however may be present with allergic rhinitis.
A rash is a noticeable change in texture or colour of the skin. The skin may become scaly, bumpy, itchy or otherwise irritated. When combined with the above symptoms, it is likely allergic rhinitis triggered by dust mites or other allergens coming in direct contact with skin.
4. Body Aches
Body aches can set in when a person catches a cold. The occurrence and severity of body aches vary on an individual basis.
On the other hand, body aches are not a sign of allergic rhinitis. This is because histamines alone causes a different reaction in the body’s sensory nerve cells. Histamines stimulate itch in the eyes and nose when it binds to the receptors.
One of the first things to watch out for is the presence of a fever. If you feel that you are developing a fever, it is more than likely the symptom of a cold or flu. This is because when the body senses certain infectious agents, it raises its temperature to fight them off. However, fever is more common among children compared to adults as children has less developed immune system.
Allergic rhinitis does not result in a fever as it is not caused by viruses or bacteria.
All is well until you develop a cold or allergic rhinitis. Instead of putting our minds and bodies through the unnecessary stress from worrying and blindly testing different medicines and remedies, it is much safer, easier and cost-efficient to first identify the symptoms, then consult a certified pharmacist or your physician accordingly for the appropriate treatment.
Here’s a video to show how we develop an allergy:
 WebMD, Is It a Common Cold or Allergies, 2014, http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/common-cold-or-allergy-symptoms.
 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Allergic Rhinitis, 2014, http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis
 ClearlyExplained, Why your body aches when it is sick, 2017, http://clearlyexplained.com/answers/aches.html
 WebMD, Flu or Cold Symptoms, 2016, http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/flu-cold-symptoms#1.
 Scientific American, What causes a fever, 2005, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-causes-a-fever/
 WebMD, What Your Mucus Says Aout Your Health, 2013, http://symptoms.webmd.com/cold-flu-map/mucus-and-health
 Mayo Clinic, Diseases and Conditions – Hay fever, 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/basics/symptoms/con-20020827
 Healthline, Do You Have A Rash From Hay Fever?, 2015, http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/hay-fever-rash#overview1