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06th May 2023

How to tell the difference between cold symptoms and hay fever

Ellen Fitzpatrick


It’s that time of year.

Hay fever season is well and truly among us and if you’re anything like me, it’s hit hard.

With more pollen in the air this time of year, it can often be hard to figure out if you are suffering from hay fever or just a regular cold, especially if you’ve never had hay fever before.

Feeling congested and exhausted come with both but treatment for the allergy and a common cold are vastly different so it’s important to know which it is.

According to the HSE, hayfever is an “allergic reaction to pollen, usually when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat.”

Usually, hay fever is at its peak between late March and September and can be particularly bad when it’s warm, humid and windy.

In contrast, cold symptoms appear first with a sore throat and are then followed by sneezing or a blocked, sore or runny nose.

When it comes to hay fever, the symptoms are more of a scratchy or itchy nose and irritated throat, rather than sore.

Both cause a runny nose and sneezing, but the major difference is itchy or irritated eyes which only comes with hay fever. A cold often comes with a cough, something hay fever doesn’t.

When it comes to treatment, the only way to alleviate hay fever is by taking an anti-histamine. Nasal sprays or decongestants also work.

For colds, over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, and cough suppressants are the best as well as rest and hydration.

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