Hay fever is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, affecting over 35 million people. An allergy is a specific reaction of the body’s immune system to a normally harmless substance, whereas the symptoms of a cold are the body’s response to a viral contagion.

In persons who are not allergic, the mucus in the nasal passages moves foreign substances to the throat which are then coughed out or swallowed. However, for the sensitive person, the body responds more dramatically, causing nasal congestion, sneezing, itching, irritation and excessive mucus production. You may be confused about whether these symptoms are allergic responses or just a cold. The table below may help you to differentiate them.

Cold Symptoms

Cough – Common
General Aches/Pains – Slight
Fatigue/Weakness – Sometime
Itchy/Watery Eyes – Rare or Never
Conjunctivitis – Rare or Never
Sneezing – Typical
Runny Nose – Common
Stuffy Nose – Common
Sore Throat – Common
Fever – Rare
Duration – 3 days to 2 weeks
Complications – Sinus infection, middle ear infection, asthma

Allergic Responses

Cough – Sometimes
General Aches/Pain – Never
Fatigue/Weakness – Sometimes
Itchy/Watery Eyes – Common
Conjunctivitis – Common
Sneezing – Typical
Runny Nose – Common
Stuffy Nose – Common
Sore Throat – Sometimes
Fever – Never
Duration – Weeks (6 weeks for ragweed or grass pollen seasons)
Complications – Sinus infection, asthma

Additional Allergic Symptoms:

“Allergic shiners” (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses)
“Allergic salute” (in a child, persistent upward rubbing of the nose that causes a crease mark on the nose)

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