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What are some differences between winter allergies and winter colds?

Sneezing, cough and nasal congestion in winter may not always be the sign of a winter cold. Very often the time spent indoors in winter exposes people to allergens that cause many of the same symptoms as a cold. Dust, mold and poet dander in the air may trigger an allergic reaction. If your "cold" symptoms start at the same time every year and last longer than usual, you may be reacting to indoor allergens.

Allergies are an immune reaction triggered by exposure to an allergen. The body responds by releasing histamine into the bloodstream as a defense against the allergen. Allergy medications include antihistamine, decongestants and nasal sprays. Sometimes more severe symptoms require stronger prescription medication. People who are tested for allergies can identify and try to avoid the allergen if possible. The common cold, on the other hand, is caused by a virus. There is no treatment for a cold except bed rest and over-the-counter pain medication and decongestants to relieve the symptoms. Allergies can last weeks or months if they are seasonal, and colds last for 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms of an allergy usually affect the eyes and nose. Watery and itchy eyes are common, as well as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose and sometimes a sore throat and cough. Allergy symptoms don't include fever or physical aches and pains that are associated with a cold or flu. You know you have an allergy when your eyes itch, because that is one symptom that colds and allergies don't usually have in common. There is no cure and no vaccine for the common cold, but allergy shots can provide a solution for certain allergens. Allergy testing to identify allergens that trigger a reaction can lead to immunotherapy, a series of shots that desensitize the body over time to a specific allergen.