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Colds vs. allergies: Overlapping symptoms can cause confusion

Both the cold and allergy seasons typically arrive hand-in-hand in the fall, because of that, people tend to think their allergies are a cold or vice versa.

Brett Newby is one of those people this year. Suffering from severe hay fever most of his life, he’s not a stranger to allergies.

“I’m an avid hunter, so I make sure in my first aid kit I have extra Benadryl and the newer Benadryl cream if I get something on my skin that can cause a reaction,” he said. “Just to be prepared.”

While Newby may be an allergy veteran, he’s worried about his 4-year-old daughter. He said she’s starting to show similar symptoms he experienced when he was her age– but without a proper diagnosis, he’s worried he could be mixing things up.

“She suffers from the same symptoms I had when I was younger, the runny nose, the itchy eyes,” Newby said. “It’s hard to tell if a cold is coming on or if it is the allergies.”

Since a lot of the symptoms for a cold or allergy are similar, like coughs, sneezes or throat pain, people tend to misdiagnose themselves for one or the other. It doesn’t help big-time agitators like ragweed and sagebrush call southeastern Idaho home.

To add to the allergy headache, the area’s recent sunny weather and higher-than-normal temperatures helped extend the weed season for allergens.

Dr. David Parry, an allergist in Pocatello, said people need to time their symptoms to help differentiate between cold and allergy.

“With colds it’s usually going to be a shortlived problem, whereas with allergies those symptoms can persist for a few weeks,” said Parry.

If someone is unlucky enough to land a cold while allergies are acting up, it could lead to a sinus infection or other bacterial infections.

Parry said a visit with your doctor is necessary if over-the-counter medications aren’t working for a cold or allergy.

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