Both colds and hayfever are conditions that most of us would prefer to avoid where possible. They are both known for causing symptoms that can have a serious impact on your daily life, including stopping you from doing the things you love, and causing unwanted discomfort.
You may be wondering, however, whether you are struggling with hayfever, or suffering from a cold – especially when the symptoms of these two conditions tend to be so similar.
To help, we have put together everything you need to know about hayfever versus a cold – including how to tell the difference and the best treatment options for each.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen in the air. It’s caused by allergens (elements that cause allergies) such as grasses, trees, and weeds. Pollen grains land on our bodies and release chemicals that trigger the immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies then attack the cells that line the nose and throat, which causes inflammation and swelling. The result is itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing.
Hay fever affects around 25% of people at some point in their lives, but only 1-2% suffer from severe cases. Symptoms usually last between 3-4 weeks, although they can sometimes persist for months if left untreated.
The first step towards knowing if you have hayfever is to look out for any signs of allergy. This means looking out for:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
Treatment options for hayfever
There are two main types of hayfever treatment available – preventative measures, such as avoiding pollen and limiting your exposure, and symptomatic treatments such as antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids. Here at the Allergy Relief Clinic we also offer a hay fever injection to relieve the symptoms of those suffering with severe hayfever allergies, we have private clinics in London, Romford and Tilbury.
What is the difference between hayfever and a cold?
A cold is a general term used to describe a range of illnesses that affect the respiratory tract. They are often accompanied by other symptoms like fever, sore throat, cough, and headache. There are many different types of colds, ranging from mild to more severe.
By contrast, hayfever is an allergic response to airborne pollen. It’s a specific type of allergy known as ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’, meaning that it occurs only in spring and autumn.
Diagnosing hayfever vs a cold
To diagnose hayfever, doctors will take a medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, they’ll ask questions about your symptoms and lifestyle habits. They may also carry out tests to check levels of antibodies, blood pressure, temperature, and lung function.
Treating hay fever vs a cold
Once a diagnosis has been made, doctors will prescribe medication depending on the severity of your condition. Mild cases of hayfever might require simple over-the-counter remedies, while more serious cases may need stronger prescription drugs.
A cold is usually treated with over-the-counter medicines. However, if your cold becomes worse, you may need to see a doctor who can provide stronger pain relief.
Whether you’re suffering from hayfever or a cold, it’s important to remember that the symptoms are quite similar. However, there are differences in the ways these conditions present themselves, which makes them easy to distinguish. And if you do suspect you have either condition, you should make sure you seek advice from your GP, who will be able to advise on the best next steps.