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Cold or seasonal allergies?

Ask the Experts

Q: How can I tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

A: Runny nose, scratchy throat, case of the sniffles? With spring in the air and pollen as its sidekick, diagnosing what ails you—a cold or seasonal allergies—can be as confusing to decipher as what came first, the chicken or the egg?

While the two share common symptoms, their origin is different. A cold occurs when a virus enters the body. Symptoms are a reaction to your immune system’s fight against the infection.

Meanwhile, allergies are an adverse reaction to a substance caused by an overactive immune system. For some reason, your body mistakes harmless things, such as dust or pollen, for germs and attacks them like they would a virus.

Sign and symptom checklist

Colds

  • symptoms appear gradually
  • colds should not last more than two weeks
  • sore or dry throat
  • green or yellow nasal discharge
  • fever, general aches and pains
Treatment

Echinacea can strengthen your immune system and prevent or treat colds/flu. Choose a preparation backed by research and one made from fresh plant extracts.

Allergies

  • itchiness (eyes, throat, top of mouth, ears)
  • symptoms appear all at once and will be triggered by an allergen
  • clear nasal discharge
  • family history—seasonal allergies are hereditary
Treatment

Roughly 20 to 25 percent of Canadians suffer from allergies. Generally, antihistamines are the go-to for immediate relief, however they may cause drowsiness and will not target the root of the problem—your immune system.

There are some homeopathic allergy remedies available that may not only treat your symptoms but, over time, lessen the enthusiasm of your immune system to trap and kill harmless particles. Ask your local natural health professional for their recommendations.

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