Overlapping symptoms of a cold and many airborne allergies - such as sneezing, congestion, or runny nose - can easily make you feel your cold aggravate your allergies. However, cold and allergy are two different conditions with two different causes.
Allergy symptoms can exhaust a person and cause lack of sleep. This stress can weaken the parts of the immune system that normally fight against the approximately 200 different cold viruses, so you can increase your chance of getting one of them.
Kathleen R. May, MD, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Cold symptoms versus allergies
Allergies to mold, dust, pet dander, pollen or other substances they produce symptoms similar to cold symptoms. The virus responsible for your cold and the allergen responsible for the allergy can produce both:
• Sneezing. • Runny nose. • Nasal congestion. • Headaches.
Sometimes allergies can cause a cough or sore throat due to post-nasal drip. The same is true of the feeling of tiredness or weakness that sometimes affects those who have a cold and an allergy.
However, a flu virus does not alter the specific response of the immune system that is behind an allergic reaction. In a person with allergies, the immune system erroneously interprets harmless materials such as pollen as a threat. In response to that, the immune system produces an excess of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that recognizes foreign substances and releases histamine. This produces swelling, itching, inflammation and other symptoms typical of an allergic reaction.
An allergen does not affect the way a cold virus invades the cells of your airways and stimulates the immune system to produce certain symptoms in order to fight the infection.
Colds and airborne allergies have some common complications. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states that both conditions can lead to asthma and sinus infections.
In addition, colds can affect children with asthma triggering wheezing, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are also similarities between cold and allergy treatments. For example, the symptoms of both can be alleviated with antihistamines and decongestants
Duration and risk factors
Kathleen R. May, MD, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, warns that allergy symptoms They can exhaust a person and cause lack of sleep.This stress can weaken the parts of the immune system that normally fight against the approximately 200 different cold viruses, which can increase your chance of contracting one of them.
Cold symptoms can last from two days to two weeks. However, for most people it goes between seven to 10 days. According to The National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, if you have symptoms of a cold that recur frequently or symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, then you may be suffering from allergies.
About the author
Boyan Hadjiev, MD, has practiced as a doctor for five years and has a double certification in internal medicine (2003) and in allergy and immunology (2005).
Dr. Hadjiev graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in biology and an MD from the Cleveland Clinic-Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.