You have watery eyes, runny nose and a cough. Is it allergies or a summer cold? It's easy to get them confused and over the past few weeks, AdventHealth Centra Care locations have seen an increase in both allergies and Upper Respiratory Infections (URI); often referred to as the common cold. Although colds and seasonal allergies may share some of the same symptoms, they are very different diseases.
Upper Respiratory Infection:
URI is any type of infection of the head and chest that is caused by a virus. It can affect people in the nose, throat, sinuses and ears. There are over 200 viruses that cause URIs. The infection is spread when viruses are passed to others by sneezing, coughing, or by touching something that has been infected by another person.
Unfortunately there is no cure for a cold, and because it is a viral infection antibiotics are not effective. To recover from symptoms as quickly as possible, get plenty of rest, drink lots of clear fluids to prevent dehydration (i.e. water, sport drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks (flattened), and broth), and use a humidifier at night so you’re breathing in moist air. Recent research indicates that vitamin D can actually protect you from colds. So get outside and catch a little sun -- just remember to wear sunscreen!
Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens. If you tend to get "colds" that develop suddenly and occur at the same time every year, it's possible that you actually have seasonal allergies.
Symptoms of allergies often mimic those of a cold -- sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and lots of sneezing. Itchy eyes are a symptom of allergies, but not colds; and, generally fatigue and fever are not allergy symptoms. Another classic symptom of seasonal allergies is blue-colored, swollen skin under the eyes, sometimes referred to as an "allergy shiner".
Treatment of seasonal allergies may include over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants, and avoiding exposure to allergens where possible. If you think you or your child has a cold or allergies, head to your closest AdventHealth Centra Care location. No appointment is needed. Centra Care physicians can help patients distinguish between an upper respiratory infection and allergies.