Is it Allergies or a Cold? | Claritin® Canada
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Is it Allergies or a Cold?

It’s winter and cold season is in full swing. But since colds and allergies share many of the same symptoms, it can be hard to tell if you’re coming down with something or suffering from allergies. Here are ways to help you learn some of the differences between allergies and a cold, so you can find the right relief for your symptoms.

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What Are Allergies?

If you have allergies, your immune systemX immune system
The body’s defense system that protects us against infections and foreign substances.  
mistakes a substance that is harmless to most people as a threat and goes into defense mode. These substances, that can come from sources like pollenX pollen
A fine, powdery substance, typically yellow, consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower called a stamen or from the male cone of a tree. 
, pet dander, mouldX mould
Parasitic, microscopic fungi (like Alternaria) that float in the air like pollen. Mould spores are a common trigger for allergies and can be found in damp areas, such as the basement or bathroom, as well as outdoors in grass, leaf piles, hay, mulch or under mushrooms. 
 and dust mitesX dust mites
A common trigger for indoor allergies. They are microscopic mites that live in the fibers of pillows, mattresses, blankets and carpet. They live off of our dead skin cells. Inhalation of their droppings can cause allergic reactions such as runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion.
, are called allergens.

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What is a Cold?

A cold happens when a virus makes its way into your body. Your immune systemX immune system
The body’s defense system that protects us against infections and foreign substances.  
responds to this foreign invader by attacking the virus. Some of the cold symptoms, like runny nose and nasal congestion, can feel a lot like allergies so it can be hard to tell the difference. A cold is contagious. You can catch it notably when someone with a cold sneezes, coughs or touches you.1,2

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Typical Characteristics of Allergies vs. a Cold
 

Typical Characteristics of Allergies vs. a Cold
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Learn Some of the Differences Between Allergies and a Cold

While colds and allergies can have similar symptoms, here are some questions to help you tell if you should consider reaching for some Claritin® or curl up with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and binge watch your favourite shows:

1. How quickly did your symptoms strike?

AllergyX Allergy
An exaggerated response of the immune system to a substance that is ordinarily harmless.  
symptoms tend to hit all at once when you come into contact with an allergenX allergen
A substance that your body perceives as foreign and harmful; initiates the allergic reaction.
. Symptoms of a cold usually appear one at a time and develop slowly over a few days.

2. How long have you had symptoms?

Colds typically run their course within 7-10 days. Allergy symptoms can last weeks or months, and will be present as long as you are exposed to the allergen. If your cold symptoms last longer than 10 days, talk to your doctor.

3. What colour and texture is your mucus?

Runny nose and sneezing are common symptoms of both colds and allergies. But you can often tell the difference by looking at the colour and texture of your mucus. If you have allergies, your mucus will typically be clear, thin and watery. If you have a cold, the mucus from coughing or sneezing may be thick and yellow or green. Yellow or green mucus could indicate an infection requiring medical attention.

4. Do you have body aches and pains?

Colds may come with slight body aches and pains. Allergies are not usually associated with body aches and pains.

5. What time of year is it?

Colds are more common during the winter months, but could also occur any time of the year. Indoor (perennial) allergies can happen year-round and outdoor seasonal allergiesX seasonal allergies
Characterized by an overreaction of the immune system to certain allergens (see Allergens) found outside, such as tree, grass or weed pollens, mould spores, etc. (Also called hay fever and outdoor allergies.) Seasonal allergies tend to last for shorter periods of time than those caused by exposure…
are more common in the spring through fall when pollenX pollen
A fine, powdery substance, typically yellow, consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower called a stamen or from the male cone of a tree. 
counts are high.1

REFERENCES

  1. Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults. American Family Physician. Accessed December 27, 2017.
  2. Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 27, 2017.

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