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Hayfever or a summer cold? Differences in symptoms and treatments!

Updated: May 16, 2019

This time of year everyone is travelling abroad, and out in the sun, and both hay fever and a summer cold are really common complaints in the pharmacy. If you’re trapped on an airplane for a few hours breathing in recycled air- chances are, you could catch a cold that someone 20 rows away has! Also, as the leaves and flowers grow and the bees are buzzing there is a whole lot more pollen floating around to irritate your eyes and nose, so complaints such as a runny nose, watery eyes and nasal congestion are really common this time of year, and could be either hayfever or a cold! If you have never suffered from havfever before, you are more likely to assume it is a summer cold you are suffering from. Even though most colds occur during the winter months, you can catch a cold at any time of the year, and in the case of hayfever, you can develop an allergic reaction even as an adult!

Hopefully this little Venn diagram (such a maths nerd wow) helps to explain the differences between the two! Remember that while colds usually occur in winter and hayfever in summer, allergies e.g. to animal dander, dust, pollen can occur any time of year, just like how a virus such as the common cold can occur in the summer months as opposed to just during winter!

Common cold (left) vs Hayfever (right)

Because the symptoms of allergies such as hayfever occur by different mechanisms than those of the common cold, there are different ways of treating the two conditions. For example, hayfever symptoms occur via the release of excess histamine in the body in response to an allergen, whereas the symptoms of a cold arise due to the response of the body to a viral infection. note from the diagram below that I have not included antibiotics in the list of treatments for the common cold, because it is viral, not bacterial in origin, something which there is a common misconception about. People often suffer from a cold for a few days to a week and think the world is ending and that they need antibiotics, but if you treat your symptoms while you have it, other than that, you just have to wait for the virus to be out of your system, which usually takes about 2 weeks, after which you may wish to visit your doctor if symptoms are getting worse rather than better. the key difference, I think, is the itchiness associated with hayfever which would not be experienced with a common cold, nor would a sore throat be . experienced due to hayfever (although it is possible that an unfortunate soul may have both at the same time! 😞).

Common cold (left) vs Hayfever (right)

* Some are available over the counter, others are prescription only

**Liquid when shaken and sprayed, and settle as gel in nose to block out pollen – e.g. Prevalin Allergy (other brands exist, this is just a common one in Irish pharmacies)

*** for short term use only

I hope this little post was helpful as it is something a lot of people are confused about in the pharmacy, and often treat incorrectly as a result. Try to avoid the allergen also if you are suffering from hayfever - close your windows, wear wraparound sunglasses, and try to stay away from grass and trees when possible, and wash yourself before bed if you have been outside. if you are suffering from a cold, along with the other suggested treatments, be sure to stay hydrated as it will help to thin the mucus, which will make your nose less stuffy, and will make it easier to cough up phlegm that remains in the chest. I will do more detailed m=posts on the treatment of a cold later but for now I just wanted to make sure you guys know the difference between the two.

That's all for now guys, hopefully you learned something new! That's always the goal here 😊

With love,

Lauren x

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