Doctor Hilary on the difference between covid and hay fever
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Hay fever is usually worse between late March and September while the common cold remains active all year round. Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and headaches are all known symptoms of both, but there are a few unique ways to tell if they’re being caused by a viral infection or airborne allergens. These are the key signs to look for to help you spot the difference between hay fever and the common cold.
How to tell the difference between hay fever and a cold
While it is true the common cold is more prevalent in the colder months, it can affect you at any time of the year.
Hay fever is slightly different in that it is more noticeable when pollen levels are high, often during the spring and summer months in the UK.
The timing of your symptoms is one of the most obvious ways to determine the cause, but even then, it can be hard to be sure.
Luckily, there are a few clever ways to tell the two apart, you just need to know what to look for.
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Your reaction to common triggers
Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen, which means it is often more noticeable while spending time outdoors, near trees, grass and plants.
Allergies can also occur in the home as a result of airborne pollen, or particles stuck onto bedding, clothing and household surfaces.
According to the NHS, hay fever is usually worse on warm, humid and windy days during spring and summer, when the pollen count is at its highest.
If your symptoms are intermittent throughout the peak season and feel worse while near known triggers, it is likely that you are dealing with hay fever and not a common cold.
The duration of your symptoms
A common cold can be unpleasant at the best of times and often leave you feeling under the weather for at least a few days.
In most cases, a cold will rarely last longer than two weeks, but this isn’t the case for seasonal allergies.
Boots said: “A cold usually lasts one to two weeks, while hay fever can last for weeks or months, depending on the pollen count.
“The higher the pollen count, the worse the symptoms will be.”
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The sensation in your throat
Symptoms of both hay fever and a cold tend to target the sinuses, ears and throat, causing congestion and irritation.
While irritation is common in both cases, there is one key difference to spot in the way your throat feels.
According to the common symptoms listed by the NHS, hay fever can make your throat feel itchy while the common cold is more likely to cause a gradually sore throat instead.
People who have hay fever could also experience itchiness in the mouth, eyes, nose and ears.
You feel tired for no reason
Your body can feel lethargic while fighting off the virus that causes the common cold, and the same can happen while experiencing hay fever symptoms too.
If you notice a sudden onset of drowsiness throughout the day, it is possible that hay fever could be the cause – and chances are you won’t feel much better after ‘sleeping it off’.
What are the main symptoms of hay fever and the common cold?
As stated by the NHS, common symptoms of hay fever include:
- A runny or blocked nose and/or sneezing
- Itchy nose, throat, mouth, ears and/or eyes
- Red or watery eyes
- Headache and/or pain around forehead and temples
- Sometimes a loss of sense of smell
- Feeling tired
Cold symptoms generally occur gradually and can include:
- A runny or blocked nose
- A sore throat
- Pressure on your face or in your ears
- A loss of smell and taste
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