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What Is The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies

The Symptoms Of Common Ailments

The Difference Between The Common Cold, The Flu, and Allergies

A stuffy nose, sneezing, chills, sore throat, a possible dry or a wet cough and body aches are the most common symptoms of the common cold.

If you have a seasonal flu, you may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and a spike in your body temperature.

Seasonal allergies on the other hand usually occur at the same time every year, and are most commonly identified with symptoms such as itchy or watery eyes, scratchy throat, rashes, sneezing and/or a cough.

Do You Know The Difference Between Cold And Allergy Symptoms Learn What To Look For In Each

Spring is in bloom, which usually means warmer temperatures, green grass, fresh flowers, andfun outdoors. Unfortunately for some of us, it also means allergens are in the air and sickness ison the way. Winter cold medicine takes a back shelf to spring antihistamines in the medicinecabinet. If you are one of the 50 million people affected by nasal allergies in the U.S., you mayhave a hard time determining if youre dealing with a cold or seasonal allergies. Here are a fewtips to help you tell the difference:

You could have these common symptoms with either a cold or seasonal allergies:

  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose

The big difference is how you contract the two illnesses. Colds are caused by more than 100types of viruses, and you can catch them any time of the year. They usually come on quickly buttend to last only about three to 10 days. Look for these additional symptoms with a cold:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

If the common symptoms tend to plague you only during certain times of the year, and thenlast longer than a couple of weeks, then youre more likely to be fighting seasonal allergies,according to Dr. James M. Steckelberg. With seasonal allergies, fever and body aches are almostnever present, but the following symptoms usually are:

  • Itchy eyes

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What Is A Summer Cold

There are many hundred strains of rhinovirus that are responsible for causing the common cold. Catching a specific strain of rhinovirus virus will help you produce immunity to that one strain. However, people still catch colds several times in a year and throughout their lifetime due to infection with other viral strains.

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What Does A Cold Look Like

When you have a cold, this means your body is fighting off a viral infection in your upper respiratory system. There are over a hundred types of viruses that can cause the common cold, which is also known scientifically as rhinitis. These illnesses are spread either by exchanging contaminated water droplets in the air or by touching surfaces where the virus is lingering.

Most adults get between two to four mild colds per year, but certain factors such as smoking or a weakened immune system can increase your risk. The areas most affected by a cold are typically the nose, mouth, throat and lungs, but full body aches and other discomforts can also be experienced because of the virus. Cold symptoms often appear one to three days after exposure to the virus, and should resolve within 5 7 days.

Symptoms of the common cold often include:

  • Runny nose
  • Fever

Is It A Cold Or Allergies

Allergies, Cold, or the Flu?

Its often hard to tell the difference between a cold and allergies. Both can cause similar symptoms, such as a runny and/or stuffy nose, sneezing, fatigue, and a sore throat. However, there are some differences that might help you tell if its allergies vs. a cold.

Simply put, colds are infections caused by viruses. Colds can be contagious up to two days before symptoms start and can last two weeks after exposure to the virus. Allergies, on the other hand, are not contagious, and the symptoms you experience are your immune system’s reaction to allergens, such as pollen.

Take our simple allergies vs. cold quiz to learn the differences between cold and common allergy symptoms.

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Does A Fever Mean I Have Coronavirus

A high temperature is 37.8C or above. A fever like this can happen when the body is fighting off any infection – not just coronavirus.

It is best to use a thermometer. But if you don’t have one, check if you, or the person you are worried about, feels hot to the touch on the chest or back.

A high temperature is unlikely with a cold.

If you have a fever, arrange a coronavirus test – you can use the NHS 111 coronavirus service online.

What Does A Sinus Infection Look Like

A sinus infection develops when the lining of the sinus cavities becomes irritated and inflamed, preventing proper mucus drainage and airflow. When mucus builds up in the nasal or sinus passages it becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, which can lead to an infection.

Sinusitis symptoms like nasal blockage and facial pain can be frustrating, especially when they continue for long periods of time or return frequently. Common symptoms of sinus infection include:

  • Dental pain
  • Pus in the nasal cavity

It is possible to start out with a cold, and later end up with a sinus infection because of the lack of drainage caused by cold symptoms. Root causes of a sinus infection include:

  • Allergies
  • Cold or virus
  • Immunodeficiencies

When a sinus infection appears quickly, produces green or yellow colored mucus, and lasts for up to two weeks, it is usually acute sinusitis. When symptoms last for many weeks or return frequently, this is usually a sign of chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis will often resolve itself by treating the symptoms of swelling and congestion, without a visit to a doctor. If symptoms carry on and you think you may have chronic sinusitis, seeing an experienced ENT doctor is the best way to determine the root cause of your sinus issues and get the right treatment.

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Common Symptoms Of Colds Sinus Infections And Allergies

Many people have been told that the following symptoms are signs of a bacterial sinus infection as opposed to a cold:

  • Facial pain and headache
  • Discolored mucus or sinus drainage
  • Severe nasal congestion
  • Fever

But in reality, these symptoms dont help us distinguish one condition from the other, at least in the first week to 10 days. Generally speaking, all of the classic symptoms of a sinus infection can be present in a cold.

If youve had these symptoms for fewer than seven to 10 days, theyre almost certainly signs of a cold virus. When people have these symptoms for more than seven to 10 days without improvement, thats when we start thinking it might be a bacterial sinus infection. It is also very unusual for a cold, or other viral upper respiratory illness, to worsen after five days. This suggests a transition to a bacterial process. This is important because antibiotics should only be used when a bacterial process is suspected.

The symptoms of allergies dont normally include fever or a lot of discolored sinus drainage. Classic allergy symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Scratchy or low-grade sore throat
  • Sneezing

Some of these are similar to cold or sinus symptoms. The difference is that allergy symptoms dont follow the course of a cold, which runs through its symptoms as the cold progresses. Allergy symptoms are more consistent than cold symptoms. There is often a pattern to the symptoms related to a change in the indoor or outdoor environment .

What Is A Cold

What is the difference between an allergy and a cold?

Although allergies share many of the same symptoms as colds, colds are different. Cold symptoms occur when a virus gets into your body and your immune system attacks it. This can cause some of the same symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion, also seen with allergies.

But there are some key differences. Germs that cause colds are contagious. You can become infected when someone with cold symptoms sneezes, coughs, or touches you.

Luckily, cold symptoms tend to disappear in 7 to 10 days. If cold symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, consider contacting your doctor.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Allergies Vs Colds

Because there is so much overlap between the symptoms of the common cold and flu versus those of seasonal allergies, here is a table to help you determine which youre suffering from:

Sometimes Rarely

Check your symptoms against those above. Then use the chart to determine where you stand. If youre suffering from an itchy throat, for example, it may be an allergy cough rather than a cough caused by a cold. If you have a headache that you can feel in your sinuses, it may be an allergy headache.

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How To Prepare For Allergy Season

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you can manage your symptoms with over-the-counter remedies. Several types of nonprescription medications can help, including oral antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal spray. You can also relieve your allergy symptoms by doing the following:

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days.
  • Close doors/windows and opt for air conditioning when possible.
  • Use HEPA filters for vacuums and HVAC systems.
  • Remove clothes youve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Wear a pollen mask outdoors.
  • Clean floors often.
  • Use an air purifier and dehumidifier around the house.

If these management options are not enough, see your doctor.

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What Is The Difference Between A Cold And Flu

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense. Colds are usually milder than flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications.

Is It A Cold Sinus Infection Or Allergies How To Tell The Difference

Clearing the Air

by Norman Lester, MD, OtolaryngologistSeptember 11, 2017

It can be tough to tell the difference between a cold, a bacterial sinus infection and allergies. In fact, thats probably one of the questions people ask doctors most frequently in this country. Theres a lot of confusion about what the signs are for these conditionsfrom patients and their doctors alike.

Recognizing the variations between these three conditions is important. The treatment strategies for a cold are unlike those for a bacterial sinus infection. And treatment for allergies is different still than treatment for the other two.

Lets go through the symptoms that people often are confused about, as well as the process of deciding which condition a patient may have and what we need to do about it.

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Difference Between Cold And Allergies

Cold vs Allergies | Allergy vs Common Cold Cause, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Management

Once a patient comes with features of Runny nose, nasal congestion and cough, it is a bit of confusion whether these symptoms are caused by cold or by allergy since these two conditions share some common characteristics. It is the responsibility of the doctor to decide which of the condition in more favor of that patient since the management options are different in these two conditions. So it is important to identify the differences between cold and allergy and this article would be helpful to differentiate them.


Common cold also known as acute coryza is a viral respiratory tract infection mostly caused by rhinoviruses. The transmission of the disease is by air borne droplets, and the disease lasts for 1-3 weeks. Cold is contagious.

Symptoms take a few days to appear after the viral infection. Patients usually presents with a burning sensation at the back of the nose soon followed by nasal stuffiness, rhinorrhoea, sore throat and sneezing. Patient may run low grade fever. In pure viral infection, nasal discharge is watery but may become mucopurulent when bacterial infection supervenes. Runny nose seen in allergic rhinitis may cause diagnostic confusion, but it is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as red eyes, itchiness and skin manifestations.

Occasionally patients may develop complications such as sinusitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and otitis media.

Allergies Rarely Cause Sore Throats Or Body Aches

The only ache you may feel with allergies is a headache from all that congestion. Your throat may also feel dry or scratching. But if youre experiencing a sore throat or mild body aches, theyre more likely a sign of a bad cold.

Can allergies cause chills? No. If you have chills, its more likely you have a cold, the flu or another infection .

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Does Sneezing Mean I’ve Got Coronavirus

Sneezing is not a classic symptom of coronavirus, and unless you also have a fever, cough or loss of smell and taste, you do not need a test, according to the NHS.

Sneeze droplets can spread infections though, so catch them in a tissue, put it in the bin and then wash your hands.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Use a face covering when social distancing is not possible
  • Try to keep your distance from those not in your household

Keep Track Of How Long Youve Felt Symptoms

Difference Between Allergies, Colds & Sinus Infections

In addition to identifying what your symptoms are, keep track of how quickly they came on and how long theyve lasted. This is also helpful to figure out whether you have allergies or a cold.

Often a person will feel OK for long periods before the colds nasal and throat symptoms fully set in, Cutler says. And a cold typically lasts three to 10 days although it can stick around for several weeks according to the Mayo Clinic.

So while your body will eventually recover from a cold in 7 to 10 days, youll continue to suffer from allergies as long as youre exposed to whats triggering them. And that brings us to the final clue: the season.

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Do You Have A Cold The Flu Or Allergies

The above table details the symptom differences between all three conditions.

The common symptoms of a cold, flu and allergies are a stuffy or a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or even fatigue. Two differing symptoms are a fever or aches/pain, these would not be caused by allergies, but could be due to a cold or the flu. Symptoms of the flu are often more severe than a cold.

While the symptoms are similar, the origin of the conditions are different. A cold and the flu are both caused by different viruses, whereas allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a trigger. Common inhalant allergy triggers are pollen, dust, mold, pet dander.

See related: Is it a cold? Or is it Allergies?

Cold Vs Allergies: Whats The Difference Between The Two

If youve ever had a runny nose in the middle of summer, youve probably always wondered if it is indeed a cold caused by a viral upper respiratory infection or just seasonal allergies. Both conditions have very similar symptoms, and its easy to mistake one for the other. The question is, whats the difference between colds and allergies? With help from a local primary care doctor, we try to answer what the common cold and seasonal allergies are and how you can tell one from the other.

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When To Visit Your Doctor

If you have any doubts or questions, its best to call your doctor. Sometimes, its hard to know for sure which germ is causing the problem. An illness that seems like a cold can turn out to be the flu or COVID-19. Your doctor may do some tests to find out.

Seasonal allergies and colds are easily self-manageable. However, you should get medical care right away if you:

  • Seem to be getting worse
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have a high fever
  • Have a bad headache
  • Have pain or pressure in your chest
  • Have trouble staying awake

Clinical Contributors To This Story

Is it an Allergy, a Cold or the Flu?

Parneet Grewal, M.D. contributes to topics such as Family Medicine.

You might expect to have a scratchy throat and a runny nose in the dead of winter, but on a beautiful summers day, these symptoms seem out of place . It is possible to experience the common cold during the warm-weather months, but the symptoms may actually be a sign that you have allergies, not a cold. How can you tell the difference when youre feeling lousy?

Although colds and allergies have some overlapping symptoms, there are reliable ways to tell them apart, including the presence or absence of certain symptoms and the duration of your discomfort, says Parneet Grewal, M.D., a family medicine specialist with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group.

Summer colds can be different

Most people who get colds in the winter are infected by common viruses known as rhinoviruses, which are most active during the chillier months. Youre less likely to be exposed to, or become ill from, rhinoviruses when its warm out.

Instead, a different type of virus causes colds more often during the warmer months: Enteroviruses. Theyre less common than rhinoviruses overall, but theyre more prevalent during the summer.

Seasonal allergies can pop up during the summer

Many people with seasonal allergies experience discomfort during the springtime, when trees pollinate. But some people are allergic to grass or ragweed, which can cause allergy symptoms well into the summer.

COVID-19 symptoms mimic some cold and allergy symptoms

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