Is it allergies or a cold 1260x542

Is it allergies or a cold?

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Have you got the sniffles but unsure if you have a cold or are suffering from seasonal allergies? Naturopath Danielle Steedman looks at how to decipher the difference and gives some tips on how to cope.

Do you want to enjoy the warm days of spring and summer but find yourself cooped up inside sniffling, sneezing, wheezing and coughing, avoiding possible allergens? Or is it that you’re suffering a summer cold? Distinguishing the cause of the problem will help to steer your treatment in the right direction.

Hay fever
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is an allergy that affects the nose. Your nose is like a filter, filtering the air that you breathe. As it does so, pollens and other microscopic particles are caught in the tiny hairs and mucus that line the nasal passages. And if you’re allergic to say pollen, then the presence of this material triggers the immune system to attack, causing the nasal passages to become inflamed and more mucus to be produced.

The symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy ears, nose and throat, red, itchy watery eyes and headaches.


The common cold
A cold, an infection in the upper respiratory tract, is commonly caused by a virus. Like hayfever, symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes, sneezing, fever and swollen lymph glands.

Hay fever or cold?
The following may help to point you in the right direction:

  • Duration of symptoms- Hay fever symptoms will last for as long as you are exposed to the allergen while a cold generally last for 10 days or less.
  • Colds tend to occur more frequently in the colder winter months, while hay fever tends to be more common in spring when airborne pollens from grasses are at their peak.

Hay fever relief

The fist step is to identify what you actually are allergic to, and then reduce your exposure to these allergens as much as possible. Some ways to do this include

  • Stay indoors during the morning and keep windows and doors closed, especially when it’s windy.
  • Don’t mow the lawn, and stay inside when it’s being done.
  • Use a tumble dryer or dry your bedding inside to avoid pollen collection.
  • Wear sunglasses when outside
  • Plant a low allergy garden with native plants and avoid expansive lawns
  • Replace carpets with hard flooring
  • Use dust mite proof covers for pillows, mattresses and doonas
  • Wash bed linen weekly in hot water and dry it in sunlight, to kill dust mites
  • Have a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner
  • Replace curtains with blinds and shutters

Supplemental garlic, horseradish and vitamin C may be helpful to reduce symptoms and ease congestion of allergic rhinitis.

Cold relief
Help is at hand if you have a cold, whatever time of year it strikes. Vitamin C and echinacea may be helpful to ease the symptoms. Andrographis may help to reduce the severity and duration of sore throat and nasal congestion of mild upper respiratory tract infections, and is again best taken at the first sign of symptoms.

Other recommendations include getting rest if possible, plenty of fresh air and sunlight, inhalations with essential oils and steam and of course practice good hygiene to reduce reinfection and infection of those around you.

Of course consulting with your healthcare professional is always recommended to help distinguish between a cold and hay fever and map out the most appropriate treatment.

References available on request