Do You Have the Common Cold or Allergies?


Do You Have the Common Cold or Allergies?

With the weather changing, stuffy heads, sore throats, sniffling and sneezing are common—but are they caused by a cold virus or seasonal allergies? The symptoms are often similar between the two, so it can sometimes be hard to tell.

In this post, we’ll explore what sets allergies and colds apart and suggest helpful ways to tell the difference. Plus, we’ll share recommendations on how to get relief from both ailments.

Symptoms of a Cold

If your runny nose is accompanied by a sore throat, fever or body aches, it’s likely that you’ve caught a cold. Itchy eyes aren’t necessarily a symptom but can be a consequence of the stuffiness caused by a cold.

To prevent colds or other viruses such as COVID, wash your hands often and keep them from touching areas on your face that are the most susceptible to receiving germs (such as your eyes and mouth).

Symptoms of Allergies

Unlike colds, allergies almost always include itchy eyes, wheezing and a runny nose, but lack some of the more severe symptoms like body aches and fevers. Sore throats are not a common symptom of allergies.

If can identify the allergen that’s causing you distress (such as pet dander or tree pollen), avoid it when possible. If you’re not sure which allergen you’re reacting to, see an Allergy specialist to get tested.

How to Tell the Difference

Aside from making a checklist of symptoms and playing the process-of-elimination game, there are a few more things you should pay attention to:

  • Short-term symptoms

If your symptoms appear all of a sudden and disappear just as rapidly, you’re probably suffering from an allergy. If that’s the case, a lack of exposure to the allergen(s), or appropriate medicine to treat the allergy should provide you relief from your symptoms.

Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants or nasal sprays may offer some relief. For more severe cases of allergies, a healthcare provider or specialist may prescribe medicines or immunotherapy.

  • Symptoms that develop over time

If a sore throat creeps up on you or a fever begins to appear after you’ve already suffered other symptoms, you’re most likely dealing with a cold. Unlike allergies, there is no quick ending to a cold because the virus that caused it simply has to work its way out of your system. That said, you can still treat the symptoms of a common cold to alleviate some of the discomfort.

Depending on the symptoms, recommended treatments could include drinking lots of fluids, getting more rest, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers and cold remedies as well as decongestants. The duration of a common cold is typically 3 to 10 days, but more serious viruses or those that go untreated can last up to three weeks.

  • Symptoms that happen in specific locations

If you only experience itchy eyes outdoors, or you only wheeze in certain rooms of a home, chances are an allergen is to blame. Take note, if removing yourself from a specific environment — whether that be inside or outside — causes your symptoms to disappear, you may have gotten closer to identifying the allergy trigger.

To be sure of what’s causing the problem, see a specialist for a simple allergy test. They’ll be able to confirm (or debunk) your suspicions and recommend treatment accordingly.

Where to Get Help

Whatever your symptoms may be this season, there’s no reason to continue suffering. If you’re dealing with an allergy or cold virus and want relief, we can help.

Request an appointment with a WWMG primary care provider on our Family Medicine page. For allergy testing at our Ear, Nose and Throat clinic, request an appointment here. We look forward to helping you find relief from your symptoms, so you can return to good health.