Could I have allergies?

Wondering if your nagging cold is actually an allergy? Or what about your new skin cream that made your hands break out? Distinguishing an allergy from a non-allergic condition is not always a clear-cut task. But knowing the difference can sometimes help you solve what's ailing you, which in turn, could mean faster relief.

Although you can't always tell the difference between an allergy and something else for certain, here are some general tips to help distinguish an allergy:

Make a checklist of symptoms.

Differentiating nasal allergy problems from cold or viral conditions spells relief for most people because nasal allergy symptoms (also known as allergic rhinitis) affects between 10% to 30% of all adults, but treatment can reduce those symptoms in about 85% of those sufferers. So if you're not sure if you have one or the other, inventory your symptoms.

Timing is everything.

The duration and time of year the symptoms occur can be strong clues to identifying their root cause. If nasal allergy symptoms get worse in the spring or fall when pollen counts are generally higher, then it's more likely to be an allergy.

It's not just a gut feeling.

Food allergies are usually a multiple system reaction. So if just one organ system appears to be involved, it's more likely to be something else, such as an intolerance, insensitivity, or even food poisoning.  

Rule out brain and nervous system disorders.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, certain disorders often thought to cause food allergies either do not have enough research to support a link, or they have been disproven to be related. Among them are: migraine, hyperactivity in kids, and certain disorders related to brain and central nervous system functioning -- mainly characterized by symptoms of fatigue, nervousness, and trouble concentrating combined with headaches. So most likely, you can eliminate food allergies from the list of possible culprits for these symptoms.

Online allergies screening test from ACAAI: