Wintertime sniffles-cold or allergies?

By: Monica Reddy, MD

Monica B. Reddy, MDWintertime Sniffles: Is this a cold or are my allergies acting up?

Brr, it’s cold outside!

Wintry weather brings an increase in stuffy noses, sneezing, and congestion symptoms, but is it a cold or allergies?  The symptoms of allergies and the common cold are easily confused, however there are a few symptoms that are unique to each of these.

The common cold is often associated with a stuffy, runny nose and coughing, but it can also be associated with a sore throat, body aches, fevers, and headache.  The common cold tends to come on over the course of a few days and can take even a few weeks to recover.

Sneezing, itchiness and cough…oh my.

Cold or allergiesWhile allergies are also often associated with a stuffy and/or runny nose and cough, allergies are also associated with sneezing, itchiness of the eyes and nose.  Allergy symptoms come on over the course of a few hours and can worsen in a certain season or in a certain location.  Some people are surprised that in our climate, tree pollination begins as early as February at the first thaw, and those who suffer from tree pollen allergies will notice their symptoms starting to worsen.  If allergy symptoms worsen in the wintertime, consider potential indoor allergens (such as pet dogs and cats), which you are more exposed to by spending time in your sealed-up home.

Identifying the source of the symptoms, whether they are due to allergies or a cold, and initiating treatment can help shorten the duration of time it takes to feel better. Simple measures such as hand washing, healthy eating, and drinking plenty of water during the winter months can help prevent the development of the common cold.  Avoidance of allergen exposures can reduce symptoms related to allergies.  Testing can be performed by an allergist to evaluate for allergies to outdoor pollens and molds and for indoor allergens such as dog and cat dander.

These are general recommendations to identify what may be causing your symptoms this winter, however it is always recommended to consult a medical provider for a treatment plan tailored to your needs.