Allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever, strikes about 7.8% of people in the US over the age of 18 years, and about 10%-30% of people worldwide. It is an allergy to pollen and dust that causes itchy and inflamed mucous membranes of the eyes and nose. A runny nose as well as watery eyes are a common manifestation of this irritating condition.
Hay fever itself is generally not dangerous, but it can trigger allergic asthma if it continues untreated. Hay fever is commonly confused with other conditions, so it is best to make a visit to your physician if you are unsure whether your symptoms are from hay fever or something else.
The common cold is often hard to distinguish from hay fever. Both can give similar symptoms. Sneezing, a runny nose, and coughing can all be caused by both colds and hay fever.
They are brought on by different reasons, however. Cold symptoms happen when your body launches an attack against an invading virus. Colds are contagious and you can get them from being around others who have the virus, whereas allergies are not contagious and you cannot “catch” allergies from another individual.
Hay fever is caused by an overactive immune system which mistakes harmless substances such as pollen and dust to be germs, and then your body launches an attack on them. If you are unsure whether your symptoms are caused by allergies or a cold, you may have to wait it out and see. If the coughing, runny nose and sneezing persist beyond two weeks, then it is likely allergies and not a cold that you are dealing with.
Hay fever may disappear with time as well, but it generally takes longer, and can be seasonal. As long as you are in contact with the allergy trigger, then you will continue to display symptoms.
Another way to distinguish between the two is that a cold will not give you the symptom of itching. If you feel itchiness in your ears, nose, mouth or throat then it is likely that you have allergies and not a cold. On the other hand, if you have aches and fever along with your other symptoms, this is more likely a cold than hay fever.
Asthma is another condition that can sometimes be confused with hay fever. Hay fever and asthma are completely different from one another, but are very much linked and have an effect on each other, which determines how you should react if you have one of them.
When an individual has both of these, hay fever will almost always make the asthma worse if it is not controlled properly, and it can bring on an asthma attack. If you have hay fever, be sure to speak with a doctor in order to get the condition under control, so that it will not cause or exacerbate other issues such as this.
Hay fever is common, and there are many ways that a person can have it treated and bring it under control. The symptoms can be confused with various other conditions, so do what you can to find out whether they are from hay fever or something else. With proper treatment, you can make hay fever take a more minimal role in your everyday life.