What to Know about a Cold vs. Allergies

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Ah-ah-ahchoo! It’s that dreaded time of year—sure, the weather feels great. But it’s also cold season. Or is it allergy season? Either way, you’re feeling miserable and you’re sneezing so much that your coworkers are threatening to make you work alone in the dark, creepy basement. But really, when it comes down to it, it can be pretty difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies since so many of the symptoms seem to overlap. We’ll talk about some of the differences to help you figure out if a trip to your allergy doctor is in store, or if you just need to rest and stock up on plenty of OJ and tissues. 

It might be allergies if…

  • Your symptoms last longer than two weeks. A cold’s symptoms might last anywhere from three to 14 days, but allergy symptoms can last for several weeks (or as long as you’re exposed to the allergen, e.g. pollen, mold, ragweed, etc.) However, you should probably head to the doctor if your cold symptoms continue to worsen or don’t clear up after 10 days to make sure you’re not dealing with a more serious illness.
  • Your symptoms come on suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. With allergies, exposure to the allergen itself will usually trigger your allergies fairly quickly, whereas a cold’s symptoms will likely come on more gradually.
  • Your eyes are itchy and watery. This is usually a telltale symptom of the dreaded allergies. The itchiness typically occurs when an allergen comes into contact with the eye, which releases something called histamines that cause the symptoms.

It might be a cold if…

  • You experience a fever or body aches. If the cold is severe, you might experience one or both of these symptoms, while allergies are unlikely to cause these. (If you’re an adult with a fever, check out this webpage to know when to head to the doctor.)
  • Your mucus is thick and green or yellow. A runny nose can be a symptom of both a cold and allergies, but allergies usually produce thin, clear mucus. The reason it thickens and changes to that neon, icky color with a cold is actually a good thing because it means that your body is fighting off an infection.
  • You have a cough. While coughs can occur with allergies, it’s more common to develop one with a cold. An allergy cough will likely be triggered by an allergen, while a cold cough will be more frequent and will likely be worse at night.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and the only way to know for sure what ailment you’re dealing with is to get a diagnosis from a doctor. When in doubt, trust your gut (and your sniffles) and head to the doctor’s office for some peace of mind. (Your coworkers will thank you.) Whether you’re battling an onslaught of allergy symptoms or dealing with a miserable cold, we hope you quickly get back to feeling at the top of your game. Tell those sneezes to hit the road, Jack.

Struggling with seasonal or year-round sneezes and sniffles? We’ve got plenty of options for you. Kick allergies to the curb (before your coworkers vote you off the island) by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Pasha and his team. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more updates!