In the summer, that 'cold' could be post-nasal drip
SUMMARY: It's hard to tell the difference, but one of the biggest indicators that you have post-nasal drip is bad breath.
Posted: July 21, 2012
If you have fatigue, a runny nose, sneezing and a cough, does this mean you're suffering from a cold or seasonal allergies? It can be hard to tell, but one of the best differentiators is bad breath, which usually comes from post-nasal drip. This thin trickle of fluid down the back of your throat is typically caused by air allergies, which, according to Dr. Naba Sharif, are quite common in the summertime.
More common than colds, anyway.
Millions and millions
The summer isn't cold season, but that doesn't mean that people can't catch a nasal bug during the warmest months. It's just unlikely. It is hard to define "cold season," but most doctors describe it as lasting between late autumn and mid-spring.
In a Gallup Poll conducted over each of the past four years, people consistently listed the three winter months as the time when they most often had colds (February being the biggest offender, with 9 percent of Americans laid up with colds). The summer months, on the other hand, had the lowest numbers - generally, 3 percent or less.
Seasonal allergies, though, can explode during the spring and summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25 million people are diagnosed with hay fever and air allergies every year.
Still, as Dr. Sharif wrote in the Bowie Patch (a Maryland news source), colds and allergy-induced post-nasal drip can be tough to tell apart.
Two very similar conditions
Sharif noted that even physicians can confuse colds and allergies, which is why the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases literally had to design and disseminate a chart describing the differences between the two conditions' symptoms.
Basically, allergies don't cause fever or general achiness, but they do cause post-nasal drip. When your nasal passages react to environmental irritants, they secrete a thin, runny mucus that slides down the back of the throat.
Thus, telltale signs of post-nasal drip include a dry cough and halitosis.
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to treat this problem. Any time nasal allergies are causing your nose to run and your throat to itch, specialty breath freshening products can give you some relief. Simply use a specialty nasal spray to neutralize odors, and then gargle with an alcohol-free mouthwash to wash the drip from your throat.