Fall is one of those times of year when the weather can change drastically and the rate of colds and viruses floating around seems to increase significantly, too. When the temperature does a thirty-degree swing in less than a week and your kids are spending their days in the Petri dish better known as a classroom, it can be tough to discern if your sniffles are a cold or a fall allergy.
What are fall allergies?
Many people find themselves confounded by the occurrence of allergies in the fall months. Though we usually associate seasonal allergies with springtime blooms and blossoms, fall has its own plant-based offender: ragweed. This misery-causing culprit of hay fever peaks in August but can continue to aggravate sufferers well into October. The pesky pollen can travel hundreds of miles, affecting even the most dedicated of city dwellers. What's more, bananas, zucchini and melon can cause symptoms that mimic ragweed during this season and affect those with an allergy, too.
Another fall allergy offender is mold. While you might associate mold with warm damp corners of unkempt sheds and flooded basements, a fresh pile of new fallen leaves makes for a lovely breeding ground for this allergy agitator. So while you're out enjoying the crisp fall air, you might also be kicking up some allergy triggers.
Dust mites are at their peak during warm summer months but hang out wherever they can as the season changes and the days get cooler. Dust accumulates in and around your heating system when you're not using it in the summer. As soon as you turn it on for the first time on a chilly fall day, you're blowing those little mites right out of their cozy location and into the air around you. Insert uncontrollable sneezing here.
Fall allergy symptoms
- Pain in the ear
- Nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing or stuffy nose
- Itchy, puffy, red or watery eyes
- Coughing or wheezing
- Throat irritation
Though some of the symptoms are the same, there are distinct differences between allergies and colds. Allergies are distinguishable by their characteristic lack of fever, first and foremost. Sinus problems like sneezing and runny nose might make you wonder what you’ve got, but it's the tell-tale itchy, watery eyes that really let you know when allergies have hit.
Colds and viruses
The common cold is caused by myriad viruses, but the most frequent bugs to infiltrate your immune system are rhinoviruses. Viruses spread when someone carrying the virus coughs, sneezes or talks, exposing those around them. If you breathe in the droplets in the air or touch something and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the virus has unencumbered entry to your body.
Fall and winter are the peak seasons for viruses, brought on by a combination of less time outside and more time indoors sharing space with others. Young children, because of their immature immune systems, and the elderly, who tend to have weaker immune systems, are more susceptible. If you smoke or have asthma, catching a cold is more likely, too.
Common cold symptoms
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Slight body aches or a mild headache
- Low-grade fever
It's easy to tell when you have a cold because, overall, you just feel cruddy (technical term!). As your immune system works to fight off the virus, your internal temperature rises slightly. This throws everything out of whack. Of course, a runny nose, cough and sore throat are usually par for the course with typical colds, too. A cold usually lasts three to 14 days. There are many over-the-counter cold and flu products you can use to soothe these symptoms, unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. The best defense is always prevention.
Whether it's a nasty bug or pesky allergies, get some relief with these soothing products: