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If you’ve noticed a colleague at work who is sneezing and sniffling lately, you might be concerned and rightly so. You can catch a cold throughout the year, particularly during the winter season. However, with symptoms that mimic that of hay fever (itchy throat, sneezing, and the sniffles), it’s easy for many to misidentify one for the other. Here at Glasgow Medical Rooms we see a lot of patients who are unsure whether they are suffering from hay fever or if it is the common cold. Keeping that in mind, we thought it would be good, to discuss the key differences between the common cold and hay fever.

What Is a Cold?

A cold is basically an infection of the upper respiratory system, which is caused by a virus affecting the nose, throat, and sinuses, bronchial tubes, larynx, and trachea. It is important to note that the lungs are not affected by the virus that causes the common cold.

Symptoms can last for five to ten days, while some of the symptoms persist for several weeks. These symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, watery or itchy eyes, headache, and possible sinus congestion.

How to Treat a Cold

Most of the viruses that cause colds are extremely contagious and can be easily transmitted from one person to the next through droplets that are spread through the air by sneezing and coughing. There’s no cure for the common cold, and antibiotics are useless against the cold virus.

Over-the-counter medications can be used to relieve the fever, headache, and sore throat. A decongestant nasal spray can also be used along with cough syrup. All medication prescribed should be used according to the instructions of the doctor to prevent any side effects.

What Is Hay Fever?

Changes in the seasons can bring about stuffy noses and itchy or puffy eyes, which are caused by hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is basically an allergic reaction of the immune system as a response to foreign materials in the air that you breathe. While the spring and autumn are considered to be hay fever seasons, the symptoms can last throughout the year if the allergen remains in the air.

How to Treat Hay Fever

When it comes to treating hay fever, your doctor will recommend an allergy blood test or skin prick test after performing a physical examination. The doctor will then prescribe over-the-counter medications to relieve the symptoms.

Usually, a combination of allergy medications are used for the best results. Prescription medications that alleviate hay fever symptoms include nasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, cromolyn sodium, leukotriene modifiers, nasal ipratropium, and oral corticosteroids.

If the symptoms are severe, the doctor may also recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy) or using under-the-tongue allergy tablets.

While cold symptoms appear gradually, the symptoms of hay fever appear all at once. Itchiness in the eyes, ears, throat, and mouth are the main indicators of hay fever.

Our private GP practise is situated in Glasgow’s city centre. And we would be delighted to look after your health and give you bespoke medical care. If you register as a patient, you would be entitled to the most up to date medical care available.

For more information or to make an appointment please call 0141 225 0140 or email

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