If your nose seems to be constantly running and you keep sneezing, you may be wondering whether you’re experiencing hay fever. Hay fever affects up to 1 in 5 people during their lives1, so it could be that you have more than the common cold.
In this blog post, we highlight the similarities and differences so you can make the correct diagnosis.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. There are around 30 different types of pollen that can cause hay fever, but the two types that affect the most people in the UK are Timothy-grass and Ryegrass pollen. Around 90% of people in the UK with hay fever are allergic to them.
It isn’t only grass pollen that can cause hay fever symptoms to flare up. Tree and weed pollen can too, and 25% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to tree pollen, while a weed pollen allergy is much less common.
Different pollen types are prevalent at different times of year
Hay fever can affect you at different times of the year, depending on what you’re allergic to:
- Mid-May to July (grass pollen)
- Late March to mid-may (tree pollen)
- Late June to September (weed pollen)
However, if you’re allergic to more than one type, your symptoms can persist for several months at a time.
What is a common cold?
Colds are mild viral infections that typically lasts a week or two
A cold is a mild viral infection and typically lasts a week or two. However, because you can catch different viruses which all cause colds, it can feel that your cold is lasting much longer. Colds are more prevalent in the winter months, but you can catch them at any time of the year.
Colds are spread by people touching contaminated surfaces, or by touching the skin of someone with a cold or inhaling droplets from sneezes or coughs.
Hay fever vs. colds
You can start suffering from hay fever as soon as you come into contact with the type of pollen you’re allergic to. However, with a cold, it usually takes a few days to develop before symptoms become apparent.
Hay fever symptoms: sneezing, blocked/runny nose, itchy eyes, ears, mouth or throat
Both hay fever and colds can cause you to sneeze and have a blocked or a runny nose. If you have itchy eyes, ears, mouth or throat, this is a sign that you’re suffering from hay fever. If you have a cold, you may have an itchy nose just before you’re about to sneeze but this is the exception.
Colds symptoms: a sore throat, frequent coughing, achy or a fever
If you’re suffering from a sore throat, it’s a sign that you have a cold rather than hay fever. You will also cough frequently, feel achy and in some cases, have a fever.
Hay fever doesn’t make you feel achy, and you won’t have a fever, but both hay fever and colds can leave you feeling more tired than usual.
Alleviate the symptoms of hay fever and common colds
With both hay fever and colds, prevention is better than cure. However, if you are suffering, there are some things you can try. With hay fever, you may need to try a few different products before you find the ones that work for you. Medication, nasal sprays and eye drops can help relieve symptoms.
If you regularly suffer from colds, you could try to boost your immune system by taking a daily vitamin supplement or if you have a cold at the moment, by seeing if a herbal medicinal product such as Echinacea Cold & Flu Capsules could help.
For advice make sure you check out our Health Hub.