The Difference Between Allergies and Illness

The Difference Between Allergies and Illness

Springtime means sunshine, warm weather and unfortunately, lots of pollen in the air. Each year, allergy season affects thousands of people and can leave many wondering – do I have allergies or am I sick?

Is it allergies, a cold or the flu?

Both the common cold and spring allergies can cause a runny nose, nasal congestion, a cough or a sore throat. But if you also have watery, itchy eyes, you are most likely suffering from spring allergies. 

Viruses like the flu or COVID-19 will likely cause fever, severe fatigue or aches and pains that are not associated with allergies. Losing your sense of smell is unique to COVID-19, though nasal congestion from allergies can result in a loss of smell that dissipates after treatment with antihistamines. 

Allergies and sinus infections.

Nasal congestion caused by allergies or illness can sometimes progress into a sinus infection, causing pressure or pain on the face – typically over the forehead, nose or cheeks. If you have discolored nasal drainage, you probably have a bacterial sinus infection. If your symptoms persist for five to seven days, you may need treatment with antibiotics. 

If theres no discolored nasal drainage, the sinus infection is viral rather than bacterial. If this is the case, a decongestant can help relieve your symptoms while you wait it out. Either way, you will need plenty of hydration and rest,” said Timothy McDonald, MD, an otolaryngology (ear, nose & throat) specialist at Holland Hospital Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy.

Can allergies be treated?

Treatment options depend on how severe your symptoms are. If they are mild and do not disrupt your daily life, you can manage your symptoms with over-the-counter medications like decongestants and antihistamines until allergy season is over. 

If allergy symptoms are severe and affect daily function, a patient can undergo immunotherapy through either weekly shots or daily sublingual drops. Immunotherapy helps create a tolerance for allergens. It's the only way to change how our body responds to allergies,” said Dr. McDonald. Everything else just helps you deal with the symptoms.”

Where can I learn more?

Holland Hospital Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy has an expert team of otolaryngologists who specialize in helping people with a wide range of health issues affecting the ear, nose, throat, head and neck. You can also get to know Dr. McDonald and learn more about the expertise he brings to the team, from medical care to specialist support to surgical intervention.

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