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What’s The Difference In A Cold And Allergies

Do I Have Allergies Or A Cold

Cold or allergies? Here’s how to tell the difference

You wake up with watery eyes, a stuffy nose and congested sinuses. This is the worst, you think to yourself. Youre clearly coming down with something but is it allergies, or a full-on cold?

Although the two have some similar symptoms, there are also key differences and once you learn to tell them apart, you can figure out the best way to treat your symptoms and get some relief. Read on to find out more with Flonase.

What’s The Difference Between Allergies And A Cold

To start, allergies and colds are caused by completely different things. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to an allergen, an external substance such as plant pollen or dust, whereas colds are caused by viruses that invade your body.i,ii However, some common allergy symptoms are also associated with the common cold.

The most noticeable of these is nasal congestion that stuffy, blocked feeling in your nose that makes it difficult to breathe. Nasal congestion, as well as a runny nose, are common symptoms of both colds and allergies. You may also experience sneezing and coughing if youre suffering from either of these.iii, iv

So what is the difference between cold and allergies? Here are three key factors to help you figure out which is causing your symptoms:

Keep Your Asthma In Check

While difficulty breathing and shortness of breath have been symptoms associated with COVID-19, 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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Allergy Vs Cold: Differences

Pratsides says the main differences between a cold and allergic reaction include:


A cold is caused by an infection from a virus that enters through the airways. An allergy is the bodys reaction to a substance and is stimulated by the presence of the substance. Depending on the allergy, you might consume or breathe in the substance that youre allergic to. This then triggers an immune response in the body.


A cold is infectious, meaning it can be passed from person to person. An allergic reaction cannot be caught from another person.

Time taken for symptoms to begin

From exposure to a virus, it usually takes a couple of days for symptoms of a cold to begin. But after exposure to a substance that youre intolerant to, symptoms will appear much quicker, within seconds or minutes.


Although colds and allergic reactions share some similar symptoms there are also dissimilar symptoms. A fever is a symptom of a cold that isnt triggered by an allergic reaction. When you have a cold, you might also experience aches and muscle pains. This doesnt occur when youre having an allergic reaction.

Mahmood adds: A usual cold lasts between seven and 10 days for most people, while allergies can vary between temporary and lifelong. A specific allergic reaction can take between a few hours and a few days to fully end.

When To Seek Help


It is not always easy to tell the difference between a cold and an allergy, so it is important to know when to see a healthcare professional. If symptoms last for more than 2 weeks or if they are severe, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.

According to the AAAAIs referral guidelines, people who have allergies should consult an allergist/immunologist if they:

  • need to confirm the diagnosis of allergies or asthma
  • require education and guidance in techniques for self-management of allergies or asthma

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Can Allergies Make You Feel Dizzy

These middle-ear disturbances can cause symptoms of dizziness in those suffering from allergies, colds, and sinus infections. Lightheadedness may also be a symptom of allergies. Lying down usually resolves lightheadedness, at least temporarily, while dizziness is generally not extinguished when you lie down.

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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Youre Always Feeling Lousy: Allergies

If you continue to get sick, despite the fact that you have very little interaction with other people throughout the day, you may be suffering from an allergy rather than a cold or viral infection, according to Purvi Parikh, MD, adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City. Consider keeping track of the last few people you were in contact with and inquiring whether or not they are feeling some of the symptoms you are feeling.

Sorting Out Your Cold And Allergy Symptoms

What is the difference between an allergy and a cold?

The reason people have such a hard time telling the difference between colds and allergies is the number of overlapping symptoms. Colds come and go, but if your cold symptoms are actually allergies, you can take steps to overcome them. With a little information, learn to decipher the signs and get the right treatment.

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Can Allergies Be Mistaken For A Cold

For people who havent considered the symptoms listed above, it can be easy to think an allergy is a cold or vice versa. But upon closer assessment, its typically fairly easy to tell the two conditions apart.

Of course, theres no reason that you cant have them back-to-back or simultaneously. You might catch a cold right when symptoms from seasonal allergies are declining. Or you might be a seasonal allergy sufferer who comes down with a cold at the same time.

How You Can Tell The Difference Between Cold And Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

With both allergies and colds, its typical to have congestion or a runny nose, and to sneeze often. You may also feel tired and drowsy. But there are several other symptoms that dont often overlap between allergies and a cold. Here are some of the telltale differences between cold symptoms and allergy symptoms.

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How To Treat A Cold

Treatment for a cold is aimed at easing your symptoms as your body, over time, naturally gets rid of the cold virus. Self-care includes getting enough liquids to prevent dehydration, rest, and using a humidifier.

Although over-the-counter medications cannot make your cold go away, they can relieve your symptoms and help you feel better while it runs its course.

  • To lower fever and provide pain relief, you can use medications like Tylenol and Advil .
  • Antihistamines, though more commonly associated with allergy treatment, can help relieve a runny nose and watery eyes related to a cold.
  • can ease sinus congestion and a stuffy nose.
  • Expectorants thin mucus so you can clear your respiratory passages easier.

Multi-symptom cold formulas combine two or more of these medications.

What Are Colds And Allergies


They have different causes. You get a cold when a tiny living thing called a virus gets into your body. There are hundreds of different types that can get you sick.

Once a cold virus gets inside you, your immune system, the body’s defense against germs, launches a counter-attack. It’s this response that brings on the classic symptoms like a cough or stuffed up nose.

The viruses that cause colds are contagious. You can pick them up when someone who’s infected sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. After a couple of weeks, at the most, your immune system fights off the illness and you should stop having symptoms.

It’s a different story with allergies. They’re caused by an overactive immune system. For some reason, your body mistakes harmless things, such as dust or pollen, for germs and mounts an attack on them.

When that happens, your body releases chemicals such as histamine, just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause a swelling in the passageways of your nose, and you’ll start sneezing and coughing.

Unlike colds, allergies aren’t contagious, though some people may inherit a tendency to get them.

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Your Eyes Are Itchy And Watery

While you might notice some redness or discomfort around your eyes when you’re sick with a cold, it’s more likely that allergies are causing eye symptoms like watering and itching, Dr. Rosenstreich said.

Your nose and throat might feel itchy with a cold, said Dr. Metcalfe, but a cold usually doesn’t affect the eyes. Allergies may also cause some swelling around the eyes, added Dr. Parikh.

Treating Common Colds In Children

  • Use saline solution in the nose to loosen congestion and help children blow their noses. Or, suck out the congestion with a bulb syringe.
  • Try certain home remedies to help relieve your child’s symptoms. For children over age 1 year, a spoonful of honey by mouth may help soothe a sore throat.
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as prescribed by your doctor, to treat aches, pain and fever.
  • For children over age 2 years, you can use mentholated ointments on top of the chest to soothe and calm coughs, especially nighttime coughs.
  • For children over age 6 years, you can use a topical decongestant such as nasal spray to help relieve nasal congestion. If used, use at night for no more than 3 days in a row.
  • Learn when to consult your physician if your young baby has common cold symptoms.

Keep in mind that oral cough and cold medications are not recommended for children under the age of 6 years. “Typically, I try to avoid oral cough and cold medications for children of any age,” says Dr. Lee. “They are not effective and can have potential side effects, such as elevated blood pressure.”

If your child’s cold and allergy symptoms last more than two weeks, consult your doctor. If you are concerned your childs symptoms are COVID-19, you should also contact your childs pediatrician. Learn more about allergies vs. COVID-19.

It can be hard to tell whether your child is facing a cold or seasonal allergies. Learn 8 ways to tell the difference between a cold and allergies via @Childrens.

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If Antihistamines Work It’s Probably An Allergy

For children over age 1 year, you can use an antihistamine to help determine whether they have colds or allergies. “Try a non-sedating antihistamine. If your child gets no relief within the next day or two, it’s probably a cold virus,” explains Dr. Lee. “However, if symptoms clear up quickly with the antihistamine, your child probably suffers from seasonal allergy symptoms.”

When Symptoms Hit: Allergies

The Difference Between Spring Allergies and Cold Symptoms

While your cold might seem worse in the morning or night, you pretty much struggle all day long. Allergies are more linked to place: Allergy to cats or dogs, for example, are typically apparent because they only occur when around the animals or their dander, explains Gary Gross, MD, an allergist-immunologist at Texas Health Dallas. If someone walks into a house with a cat and starts sneezing, an individual should suspect an allergy to cat dander. Additionally, you may notice an increase in symptoms when youre outdoor versus indoor, since grass, pollen, and weeds in the air may heighten exposure to seasonal allergies.

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How To Tell The Difference

Asking certain questions can help someone determine whether symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold:

  • How quickly did symptoms appear? Symptoms tend to come on gradually over a day or two when a cold is the cause. When symptoms come on suddenly out of nowhere, they are more likely to be caused by an allergy.
  • How long have symptoms been present? Symptoms of a cold tend to taper off after a week or two. Allergy symptoms may last while exposure to the triggering allergen is still in the air.
  • Do symptoms occur at predictable times? If symptoms tend to occur at the same time every year, they can be due to seasonal allergies.
  • Do symptoms include itchy or watery eyes or eczema? Certain symptoms tend to occur more frequently with allergies as opposed to colds.

If Your Child Is Under Age 1 It’s Likely A Cold

It is unusual for a child under 1 year old to be diagnosed with seasonal allergies. “With allergies, you typically must be exposed to things a number of times to get an allergic response,” explains Dr. Lee. “It’s not that a baby can’t have an allergic reaction to something during the first year of life, but typical seasonal allergies usually involve older kids.”

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Notice What Time Of Year It Is

A common allergy for many is hay fever, which is an allergy to plant pollen. It will usually strike from February through June when blooming plants distribute their pollen. But the exact timing can vary depending on when plants bloom and release pollen. To suss out if the pollen counts are high where you live, check out the pollen map on the National Allergy Bureau website.

If sniffles hit during the wintertime and particularly if people around you have similar symptoms odds are you have a cold or the flu, not allergies, Arthur says.

How To Tell The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies


Autumn is upon us. Our kids are back in school, and there are fall festivities aplenty. With the leaves changing and the cooler temperatures, Texas is beautiful this time of year, but some folks dont feel their best. The change of seasons raises this question: Do I have a cold or allergies?

At Allergy & ENT Associates, we want to help you understand how to tell the difference between a cold and allergies. You will discover the best treatment options to pursue by understanding how the two differ from one another. When armed with a clean bill of health, you can get back to enjoying the fall season in the Lone Star State.

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If Allergy Medicine Doesnt Work Is It A Cold

If prescribed or recommended medicine isnt working, there may be a few explanations.

  • Allergy medicine will not treat a cold . So, if youve started taking allergy medication without a proper diagnosis, you may just have a cold
  • If youve had a professional diagnosis, it could be that you need to try another medicine13. If this is the case, speak to your doctor and they may suggest immunotherapy or another treatment

Also, make sure youre using allergy medications correctly such as pointing nasal sprays the right way and following the directions on any packaging. You could have your local pharmacist help with drug administration if you are unsure how to use a product.

How To Tell The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies Symptoms

First, consider the symptoms. Colds and allergies both lead to sneezing, sniffling, and congestion, Kristine Arthur, an internist at MemorialCare Medical Group, says. But there are some key symptoms that set each illness apart.

Got an itchy sensation in your eyes or nose? That’s a tipoff you have allergies.

On the other hand, if you’re suffering from a headache, body aches, and a mild fever, those are signature symptoms of a cold, not allergies.

And while it might be gross, take a good look at your snot. If it’s thin and clear, you probably have allergies. But if it’s thick and discolored, then it’s probably a cold, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Can Allergies Turn Into A Cold Or Sinus Infection

People sometimes wonder if allergies can turn into a cold or sinus infection. The first part of the answer is that allergies cant cause a cold. There are two different mechanisms at work an immune response to something that shouldnt cause a response in the first case and an appropriate response to a cold virus in the second.

As for allergies and sinus infections, there can be a link in that allergies can affect sinus drainage, and its easier for an infection to develop if the sinuses arent draining properly.

What Are Summer Colds

Is It Allergies or a Cold?

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

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