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What’s The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies

What Is A Cold

The difference between cold, COVID, flu and allergies

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.

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.

Difference Between Head Cold And Allergies

Colds are caused by viruses. There are many different viruses that can get in your body and your immune system attacks it and tries to knock it out. The symptoms you experience are caused from the attack of your immune system. The congestion, coughing, runny nose and discomfort are symptoms of your cold. Colds are spread easily by germs. Coughing, sneezing and touching door knobs spread the germs and coming in contact with those germs allows the virus to spread to you. A cold will last up to two weeks.

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Allergies Do Not Cause Fevers

People often wonder if allergies can cause a fever. The answer is no. Allergies cannot cause a fever, though you could have an allergy flare at the same time youre experiencing a fever from another infection.

With a cold, your temperature can run warmer, but typically it will be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allergies Follow A Pattern And Symptoms Tend To Stick Around Longer

Seasonal Allergies, the Common Cold, or COVID

If you have allergies, your symptoms will flare up at certain times throughout the year when the allergens youre sensitive to are present. For example, if you have a tree pollen allergy, your symptoms will first appear in the early spring.

This also means that your symptoms can last for several weeks until that particular allergy season has ended. To put that into perspective, colds usually only last about a week.

Cold viruses are present all year, so you can catch one at any time. However, the winter cold season is when getting sick is more likely.

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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 Is A Summer Allergy Different From A Cold

The fundamental difference between colds and allergies is that the former results from the bodys immune system combatting a disease-causing virus. The latter, on the other hand, happens when the immune system incorrectly identifies an otherwise harmless protein like pollen, pet dander, or dust.

Allergies typically cause a clear nasal discharge, accompanied by an itchy sensation in the sinuses, ears, eyes, or throat. Sneezing is not uncommon, nor is the feeling of stuffiness in the head. Its very much possible for your eyes to become red and irritated as a result of an allergic reaction.

According to a primary care physician in Santa Fe, NM, the common cold may provoke certain symptoms that are not shared by allergies, such as sore throat, fever, or body aches. Also, a typical cold will run its course within seven to ten days. However, allergies can last for much longer, depending on what youre allergic to and what happens to be pollinating. As long as you are exposed to these allergens, you will continue to experience the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

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Is My Headache From Covid

Headaches are also a fairly common symptom to experience during colds, the flu, allergies, and COVID-19. Ask yourself what other, if any, symptoms you are experiencing. Is the headache similar in severity to what youve experienced in the past from colds or allergies? A more serious headache may be indicative of influenza or COVID-19 however, both of these infections can be limited to causing only mild symptoms.

What Are Summer Colds

Allergist explains the difference between allergy, flu, coronavirus symptoms | Extended Interview

The common cold is caused by any one of hundreds of different viruses that attack the upper respiratory system. Youve probably heard of rhinovirus, which is just one category of viruses that are one of the leading causes of the common cold. There are hundreds of different strains of rhinovirus that cause colds, but catching a specific strain of the virus could actually help you produce immunity to that particular strain.

Compared to seasonal allergies, colds are upper respiratory infections that could happen to you all year round but are more prevalent in the colder months. Colds arent caused by cold climates or exposure to cold air. Some of the common symptoms of colds include:

  • Body Aches and Pains
  • Sore Throat

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Similar Symptoms Different Causes

To understand the difference between a cold and allergies, it is important to know that some cold symptoms are actually the same as some allergy symptoms. Plus, everyone experiences colds and allergies a little differently. Its no wonder why it can be challenging to figure out exactly whats going on.

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.

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Cold Vs Allergy In Children: How To Tell The Difference

Colds are infections of the upper respiratory tract . They are caused by several different viruses. They are spread by:

  • Touching a person with a cold

  • Touching an object that someone with a cold has touched

  • Breathing the virus in the air after someone with a cold has coughed or sneezed into the air

Seasonal allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds as if it were harmful to the body. This reaction causes symptoms that can seem like a cold. Allergies often run in families. Seasonal allergies occur at the same time each year. If your child has allergy symptoms all year, they may be allergic to things in the home. These can include dust mites, animals, mold, and cockroaches.

The table below is a guide to symptoms. See your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.


Keep Your Asthma In Check

Differences Between Colds, Flu And Allergies

While difficulty breathing and shortness of breath have been symptoms associated with coronavirus, it can also be signs of asthma that can flare up with the allergy season. If you dont have a fever present with these symptoms, asthma could be the culprit.

People with asthma need to stay on top of their treatment, says Dr. Benninger, especially since people with respiratory issues are at a higher risk of potentially severe illness from coronavirus. Whether its inhalers or nasal sprays, its important to be up to date on their medication and proper usage.

Dr. Benninger also recommends starting allergy medications early in the allergy season rather than waiting for the worst part.

If you can prevent the symptoms from worsening, then youre much more likely to have less difficulty when you get to the time of the season when allergies tend to get out of control, he says.

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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.

How To Treat Allergies

In some cases, the best way to manage allergic reactions is to completely avoid the allergen triggering substance. But when the allergen is impossible to avoid, or allergic reactions are getting in the way of your life, our doctors offer solutions that will help you manage them.

Allergy shots help desensitize your body to allergens by exposing your body to a small amount of the allergen, slowly increasing the amount over time. Our doctors develop a treatment course to your triggering allergens, starting with weekly shots and moving to monthly over time.

Other allergy treatments our doctors prescribe include medication, inhalers, and sublingual immunotherapy tablets, a tablet form of allergy shots. For certain life-threatening allergies, our doctors prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector for you to carry with you in case of exposure to the allergen.

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Is My Runny Stuffed Up Nose & Congestion From Covid

A runny, congested nose is another symptom that can be caused by a cold, the flu, COVID-19, and allergies. If the nasal symptoms are accompanied by itchiness, like itchy eyes, mouth, nose, throat, or ears, you could be experiencing seasonal allergies. A runny nose caused by a cold normally starts about a day after a sore throat. As the cold progresses, the nasal secretions often go from clear and watery to green or yellow and become thicker before finally becoming clear and watery again. Influenza and COVID-19 can also precipitate a runny, stuffed up nose. The presence and severity of symptoms like a fever or body aches can help indicate if the nasal symptoms may be caused by something more serious than a cold or mild allergies.

Is My Cough From Covid

Are you having a Cold , Flu, Allergy or Covid-19? | How to tell the difference?

Developing a cough is fairly common in people with a cold, flu, COVID-19 or seasonal allergies. The severity and length of time that you have had the cough can help you narrow down the cause. The cough from a cold normally doesnt last more than 7-14 days and usually remains mild to moderate in severity. Certain individuals with seasonal allergies can also develop a cough when exposed to allergens, particularly if they also have asthma. COVID-19 and the flu can both cause a cough that can become severe. If someone is having trouble breathing or has persistent pain or pressure in the chest, they need immediate medical care. You can learn more about COVID-19 symptoms and emergency warning signs from the CDC.

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What Are Allergies

Allergies occur when your immune system has an adverse reaction to certain substances. When youre exposed to an allergy trigger, known as an allergen, your immune system releases chemicals called histamines. This release of histamines is what causes allergy symptoms.

Allergies and colds share some common symptoms, such as:

Allergies are more likely to cause:

  • itchy eyes
  • skin rashes, such as eczema or hives

What Is Hay Fever

Hay fever is a specific type of chronic allergic reaction. When you get hay fever, your symptoms are similar to when you have a cold, such as a runny nose, sore throat, congestion, and watery eyes. You might even initially mistake hay fever symptoms for a cold.

Unlike other allergic reactions, which typically go away after youre no longer exposed to the substance, hay fever is often chronic and can last for months. The most common substances that cause hay fever include pollen, mold, and dust.

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Flu Symptoms And Treatment

Like COVID19 the flu is also spread by droplets made when people cough or sneeze. The flu also causes respiratory distress and has symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, fatigue and more. The best flu treatment is the vaccine but there are other antiviral drugs that can be given. When it comes to flu symptoms vs cold symptoms the main difference is that the flu will come on much stronger and come with a fever.

Allergies Vs Cold Symptoms: Whats The Difference

Cold vs Allergies: Which Is It?
  • ENT Institute

Nowadays, when you or someone you know is sick, theres a level of concern about what it is, whether thats allergies, the common cold, the flu, a sinus infection, or COVID-19. There are distinct differences between each one that you should know so you can stay ahead of whats ailing you. For this blog, were focusing on allergies vs cold symptoms .

The differences between allergies and the common cold are subtle but can be spotted pretty quickly. The issue with either of these is that if ignored, they can turn into a dangerous sinus infection.

But lets start with allergy symptoms and go from there.

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Taking The Right Medication For The Right Illness

The best thing to do for cold or sinus symptoms during the first seven to 10 days is to treat the symptoms, not the illness. You can do this with medications such as:

  • Cough medicine
  • Pain reliever

Cold viruses dont respond to antibiotics, so taking them during the first seven days probably wont help. In fact, taking antibiotics when theyre not needed can increase your risk for being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or other serious antibiotic related problems.

After seven to 10 days, when the symptoms are more likely to indicate a sinus infection, it may be time to ask your doctor about antibiotics. However, sinus infections can and do sometimes go away on their own, just like colds. Ask your doctor if you need an antibiotic or if the infection is likely to go away on its own without medication.

If your symptoms point to allergies, many effective medications are available over the counter to control symptoms, such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. These medications work on all sorts of allergies because they suppress the bodys reactions to allergens, rather than treating the specific allergen. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, however, so be cautious of that when taking them. They also do not help stuffiness or pressure symptoms, so adding a decongestant plus a pain reliever as needed can help you ride it out.

You Notice A Seasonal Pattern

If youre the type of person who swears they get the same cold every March, it might be time to reconsider. If you notice its seasonal like clockwork, and every spring or fall you get these symptoms, it might be allergy-related, Dr. Parikh says.

That holds true even if your seasonal symptoms occur earlier than you might think of as allergy season, Dr. Rosenstreich says. In the Northeast, for example, most people are not aware of the fact that the trees begin to pollinate even when theres still snow on the ground. Depending on the weather, people can have allergy symptoms in February.

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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 .


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