Summer is a time to relax by the pool, organize barbecues with family and friends and make day trips to the beach. Ah… ah… ah-CHOO!
Sure, the weather feels great, but it’s also cold season. Or is it allergy season? Summer sniffling, sneezing and that itchy tickle in the back of your throat can throw a wrench in your plans for fun in the sun.
When the symptoms making you miserable last long past the average two weeks of the common cold, allergies may be the culprit. Although the end of spring signals the end of tree pollination, grass and ragweed continue to pollinate all summer long. Summer humidity also fosters allergy-triggering mold.
But when it really comes down to it, it can be pretty difficult to tell whether you’re dealing with cold, allergies or sinus problems because they seem to overlap.
We’ll talk about some of the differences between colds and allergies to help you figure out whether a trip to your allergy doctor is in store or whether you just need to rest and stock up on orange juice and tissues.
[Related: How Do You Select an Allergy Specialist?]
Allergy Symptoms to Watch Out For
If sniffling and sneezing last way over two weeks, you may be suffering from allergies rather than a common cold. However, several other signs can indicate which of these two conditions is the cause.
Here’s when it might be allergies:
- Your symptoms come on suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. With allergies, exposure to the allergen itself will usually trigger your allergies fairly quickly, whereas a cold’s symptoms will likely come on gradually.
- Your eyes are itchy and watery. This is usually a telltale symptom of dreaded allergies. The itchiness typically occurs when an allergen comes into contact with the eye, which releases histamines that cause the symptoms.
- You aren’t running a fever. While a cold can sometimes cause a fever, allergies do not.
- Your discomfort is restricted to where your allergies typically affect you rather than the total-body ache that comes with a cold.
- Your mucus is clear. Infections don’t cause allergies, so your mucus shouldn’t be the yellowish or greenish color caused by a cold’s bacterial or viral nature.
Cold Symptoms to Watch Out For
All that sniffling and sneezing might actually be a summer cold. Some of the symptoms can let you know if that’s the case.
Here’s when it might be a cold:
- You experience a fever or body aches. If the cold is severe, you might experience one or both symptoms, but allergies are unlikely to cause them. (If you’re an adult with a fever, check out this web page to know when to head to the doctor.)
- Your mucus is thick and green or yellow. A runny nose can be a symptom of both a cold and allergies, but allergies usually produce thin, clear mucus. When mucus thickens and changes to that neon, icky color with a cold, it’s actually a good sign because that means your body is fighting off an infection.
- You have a cough. Cough can occur with allergies, but it’s more common to develop one with a cold. An allergen will likely trigger an allergy cough, whereas a cold cough will be more frequent and probably worsen at night.
Get a Proper Diagnosis
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. The only way to know for sure what ailment you’re dealing with is to get a diagnosis from a doctor. When in doubt, trust your gut (and your sniffles) and head to the doctor’s office for some peace of mind.
How to Treat a Summer Cold
You can often treat summer colds with rest and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to manage symptoms until the infection leaves your system.
Allergies, however, will persist until you treat the underlying source, which can lead to a cycle of symptom maintenance each summer with mountains of tissues, OTC pills and nasal sprays. Letting allergies go untreated can also have long-term consequences, including chronic ear and sinus infections, growths in the nasal cavities and sinus inflammation.
Fortunately, there are ways to determine the source of your allergies and treat them where they start.
How to Treat Allergies
Every allergy treatment plan begins with an allergy test to determine what your body is reacting to. Allergy testing exposes your skin to tiny levels of various allergens to check for a reaction. If you’re allergic to one of these substances, your skin will react at the site of exposure.
Once a doctor or allergist determines your allergens, you can try to change your surroundings to help reduce your exposure to them. This doesn’t mean you should pack up and move, but you might consider having your home deep-cleaned and treated for mold, replacing old, dusty furniture, or changing your landscaping to remove allergy-triggering plants.
These changes can temporarily reduce symptoms, but we can never fully eliminate allergens from our lives. The only long-term solution is to treat allergies at their source.
[Related: Guide to Seasonal Allergy Triggers]
Immunotherapy is a common allergy treatment form that a specialized physician prescribes. By introducing your body to small doses of what you’re allergic to, it treats the source of your allergies instead of managing your symptoms. Over time, this small exposure helps your body adjust to the allergen’s presence, which can reduce your reaction to it.
Immunotherapy can be an excellent treatment option for those who can’t avoid their allergens or don’t respond well to medications that help manage their symptoms. You usually undergo immunotherapy via injection, but you can also use allergy drops that are absorbed under the tongue. This is called sublingual immunotherapy, and it’s an excellent alternative for patients young and old who’d prefer to avoid a routine prick.
Allergy shots are injections that introduce allergens to your immune system to help your body build immunity. You receive specially crafted shots that a doctor or allergist custom-makes for your particular allergies. You can receive the shots at your doctor’s office or at home after undergoing training.
These shots trigger your immune system without causing a full-on reaction, which allows you to become accustomed to (or less sensitive to) your allergies.
Sublingual Allergy Drops
Sublingual allergy drops are an injection-free treatment for allergies. You or your doctor places drops containing a small dosage of custom-made allergens under your tongue. The goal of sublingual drops is to reduce your sensitivity and build up immunity to your allergies.
Sometimes, conditions such as enlargement of the sinuses, a deviated septum or nasal passage growths called polyps may be the underlying cause of your symptoms. These conditions can prevent your sinuses from draining properly, which may cause congestion, pain and postnasal drip.
If you have one of these conditions, you may find that an in-office surgical procedure is the best long-term solution for your symptoms — especially if other treatments prove ineffective.
Contact Pasha Sinus & Snoring Center Today
Are you struggling with seasonal or year-round sneezes and sniffles? We’ve got plenty of options for you. Kick allergies to the curb (before your coworkers vote you off the island).
Whether you’re battling an onslaught of allergy symptoms or dealing with a miserable cold, we hope you quickly get back to feeling at the top of your game!