9/14/2021

Is it a cold or an allergy? How to differentiate the symptoms

dawnsears.com - Runny nose but congested. You should be content with a nagging cough and sore throat, but is it a cold or a seasonal allergy this time of year?

Is it a cold or an allergy? How to differentiate the symptoms


Since both cold and allergy viruses can spread throughout the year, are more common at certain times of the year, and have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to know what they are what happens when a cold starts.

Some estimates suggest that people in the United States suffer 1 billion colds each year. And when it comes to allergies, up to 30% of adults and 40% of children have them.

So how do you distinguish between cold symptoms and seasonal allergy symptoms? You need to know this.

Cold Allergies: A Parallel Look at Common Signs

Although allergies and seasonal colds share some of the same symptoms, the way the symptoms feel and how common they are can be unique. Below is a side-by-side table comparing cold and allergy symptoms and giving an overview of their similarities and differences.

SymptomsAllergiesCold
FeverNeverTemperature of less than 100°F
SneezingCommonCommon
Running or stuffy noseCommonCommon
Itchy, watery eyesCommonRare
Itchy earsCommonNever
HeadacheCommonCommon
CoughDry (typically)Hacking
Circles under eyesTypicalNever
Muscle pain or body achesRareCommon
Sore throatRareCommon
TirednessCommonCommon


How do you distinguish between cold symptoms and seasonal allergies?

With both allergies and colds, it's normal to have a stuffy or runny nose and sneeze frequently. You may also feel tired and sleepy. But there are many other symptoms that often do not overlap between allergies and the common cold. Here are some clear differences between cold symptoms and allergy symptoms.

1. Allergies follow a pattern and symptoms tend to last longer.

If you have allergies, symptoms will appear at certain times of the year if you are allergic to the allergen. For example, if you are allergic to tree pollen, symptoms will first appear in early spring.

This also means that symptoms can persist for several weeks until the specific allergy season is over. To put this in mind, colds generally only last about a week.

Cold viruses are present year-round, so you can catch one at any time. However, the cold winter is the time when you are most likely to get sick.

2. Allergies do not cause fever

People often wonder if an allergy can cause a fever. The answer is no. Allergies cannot cause a fever, although you may have an allergic attack at the same time that you have a fever from another infection.

With a cold, your temperature may be warmer, but it is usually below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. A dry, wet cough that screams cold

While coughing is common for both allergy attacks and colds, the type of cough varies for each. A cold cough is wet and lumpy, often producing mucus or phlegm that gradually thickens, often taking on a green or yellow tinge.

An allergy-related cough usually feels like you're having a tickle in your throat. This is because allergens often irritate the nasal passages, causing mucus to build up in the nasal passages. This can drip down the nose and down the throat, creating that tickling sensation.

4. Itchy eyes, ears, nose and throat often indicate an allergy.

Allergies have a big itch factor. If you have itchy eyes, ears, nose or throat, it is almost certainly an allergy. This is because the same allergens that can cause other symptoms, such as sneezing or coughing, can also affect the lining of the eye.

5. Allergies rarely cause a sore throat or body aches.

The only pain you can feel with allergies is a headache from all that congestion. Your throat may also feel dry or itchy. But if you have a sore throat or mild body aches, it is most likely a sign of a cold.

Can allergies cause chills? No. If you get chills, you are more likely to get a cold, the flu, or another infection (depending on your other symptoms).

And COVID-19? How are cold or allergy symptoms different?

Colds, seasonal allergies, and COVID-19 affect the respiratory system, which means they have many symptoms. Some of these common symptoms include:
  1. stuffy or runny nose (congestion)
  2. cough
  3. Irritation or sore throat
  4. Headache
  5. Tired
One of the main differences that distinguishes them all is the type of cough. As mentioned, a cold cough is wet and often produces mucus or phlegm. Allergy and cough COVID-19 is dry, but COVID-19 can often cause a persistent cough that can cause shortness of breath.

What do I do if I suspect I have a cold or seasonal allergies?

Start with some home remedies for cold and allergy symptoms.

When you start to feel disgusted, some simple home remedies can provide temporary relief. To start, try to get more rest. Both allergies and colds can cause fatigue, so listen to your body and calm down.

Also, make use of salt water to soothe irritated nasal passages and a sore or irritated throat.

For your nose, use a neti pot. A neti pot can be purchased at any local drugstore or online, and it usually comes with packets to mix with warm distilled water to create a saltwater solution.

For pouring through the nasal passages.

For your throat, simply mix one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of table salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Take a sip and gargle for a few seconds just as you would a mouthwash. Then spit and repeat until the solution is gone. You can do this several times a day.

Use over-the-counter medications to help relieve and control symptoms.

cold medicine

If you think you have a cold and have a mild fever, headache, or muscle aches, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), as long as you 

You are not allergic to these medicines. These medications can help lower your temperature and relieve pain.

If your child has symptoms of the common cold, make sure you have discussed with your doctor which medications are safe to administer and follow pain reliever dosing instructions very carefully.

Warning: Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers with the flu, as it has a small risk of causing fatal Reye's syndrome.

seasonal allergy medications

How do you find relief from seasonal allergies? Taking an oral antihistamine may be your first step.

Benadryl is a popular choice, but it may cause drowsiness. (And for children younger than 6, it can sometimes cause hyperactivity.) But newer medications like Claritin, Allegra, Xyzal, and Zyrtec, and lower-cost generic versions, have reduced this side effect.

Antihistamines are also available as eye drops to help with itchy, watery eyes. One option is called Zatidor (Ketotifen).

Can antihistamines work for cold symptoms, too? Technically, yes. Antihistamines help relieve symptoms of congestion, such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. So if you experience any of these symptoms during a cold, antihistamines can help.

Medicines to help with colds and allergies.

Whether you have cold or allergy symptoms, there are two remedies you can find at your local drugstore:

  • Nasal sprays (such as Flonase and Nasacort) to reduce inflammation of the nose and sinuses.
  • Decongestants (such as Sudafed) can relieve congestion when allergies are at their worst. But they can have other side effects, so they should only be used short-term when allergies are severe. Do not take it if you have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Talk to a doctor or physician to create a personalized treatment plan

If you are not sure if you have a cold or an allergy, or if your symptoms are severe or long lasting, it is best to contact your care provider for an official diagnosis and treatment plan.

If your allergy symptoms aren't treated, you may become more likely to get sinus or other upper respiratory infections, or it may lead to poor asthma control.

Also, colds can become severe. So if you have a cold in your bed for more than a day or two, call your doctor.

You have two options:

Make an appointment to get face-to-face care from a doctor or primary care physician. Whether you choose a video visit or an in-person appointment, your doctor will listen to your symptoms, answer questions, and work with you to develop a customized treatment plan, including connecting you with an allergist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (a doctor who specializes in the ear). Nose and throat). ) if it is necessary.