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Allergy vs Cold – What Are The Differences?

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Difference Allergy and cold

Allergy vs Cold – What Are The Differences?

Whenever the cold or a flu season arrives, signs like congestion, sneezing, or a runny nose often result in the same conclusion — It must be cold. But, how can you diagnose the symptoms correctly, when you can see leaves falling in the background.

What if it could be an allergy?

How can you be so sure about your diagnosis?

Allergies vs cold— spotting the difference involves a skill. And clearly, you cannot do it without a little help from the experts.

What is The Prevalence of Allergies and Cold?

There are millions of common cold cases every year in the United States. On average, adults experience around 2-3 colds per year. On the contrary, allergies are among the top six causes of chronic illness in the country, with more than 50 million Americans experience different types of allergies each year.

Allergies vs Cold- Understanding The Causes

Identifying whether you are down with allergy or cold symptoms, you must understand how they start in the first place.


There are more than 200 subtypes of viruses that might be the reason behind causing cold, and most of the time, its rhinovirus that causes your cold symptoms.

In addition to that, colds are transmitted through the air via coughing or sneezing. Hence, making it one of the most common communicable diseases.

Most of the time, you can you are likely to catch a cold during fall or winter months. Although, you might get cold at any time of the year.


It is not caused by any virus and is not contagious either. It develops when your immune system interacts with a substance that is otherwise not dangerous.

With a release of histamines (a type of immune cells), allergy symptoms might get triggered, although allergies might also trigger any time of the year.

But, mostly pollen allergies are the most common during spring months. Also, one can find grass allergies during the late springtime.

Hopefully, this sheds a bit of light, whether you have allergies or a cold.

What Are The Similarities Between Allergies or Cold Symptoms?

There are many similarities if you compare allergies vs. cold symptoms. For instance, both conditions affect the respiratory tract with the following common symptoms.

  1. Runny nose
  2. Nasal congestion
  3. Coughing
  4. Sneezing
  5. Sore throat
  6. Post-nasal drip
  7. Conjunctivitis

The only thing that differs their symptoms is the intensity of all these symptoms that we will be discussing in the next part of the article.

What is The Duration of The Allergy or Cold Symptoms?

As per the data published by the CDC, cold symptoms usually vary between 7 to 10 days approximately. However, allergy symptoms might last for many weeks, especially if your type of allergen stays in the air for longer periods.

So, if your symptoms trigger whenever you are near grass or pollen, it is definitely an allergy, not a cold.

What Are The Differences Between Allergies or Cold Symptoms?

One can differentiate between the two conditions by learning about the allergy vs. cold symptoms differences.


When your symptoms start reducing after a few days, but before getting better, you might have rounds of cough, sinus pain for some days. Other than that, your mucus might be yellow, green, or thick.

You might also experience low fever, headache, or mild body aches. But remember, some allergies might trigger cough as well. So, you need to be sure before starting your medications.


One can spot that you are suffering from allergies when your mucus is clear instead of discolored that one sees with a cold condition. You might have allergies when your eyes start becoming watery.

Also, when your symptoms stay the same along with sniffles without any changes for more than a week or longer. And lastly, when your symptoms start showing in specific situations only.

allergy vs cold


What Are The Treatment Options Available For Alleviating Symptoms of Allergies or a Cold?

As the source of both the medical conditions is different. So, it’s natural that the treatment options will also be different.

Here are the types of treatment available for reducing the frequency or intensity of allergies or cold symptoms.

For Cold Symptoms

Usually, you will be relieved from cold within a few days by itself. Antibiotics are only helpful for killing bacteria, not viruses.

However, you can still find medications you relieve your symptoms such as cough syrups or OTC medications, nasal sprays as decongestants, or pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Make sure not to give cough syrups or OTC meds to kids under the age of 4. And nasal sprays are not recommended for children under six years. Never go for any cold medication for a more extended period as it might cause some side effects.

You can also go for some home remedies to relieve some of the symptoms.

  1. Drink more fluids like water or herbal tea
  2. Don’t go for caffeine
  3. Go for saline sprays
  4. Gargle using saltwater
  5. Going for a cool-mist humidifier

For Allergy Symptoms

One of the best ways to prevent allergies is never to be in the vicinity of your triggers. However, if you can’t avoid them, look for the following medications.


They help by blocking the pathway that might trigger the release of histamines. Some of the common examples include Allegra, Benadryl, or Cetirizine. However, these medications might cause drowsiness.


They help reduce the swollen nasal membranes. Thereby alleviating sinus congestion. You can try pseudoephedrine or guaifenesin-pseudoephedrine. They either come in pills or sprays.


They reduce the swelling in the nasal area by blocking inflammation. They also reduce the number of activated immune cells. You can treat both seasonal and yearly allergies using these medications.

You can also go for eye drops or allergy shots to desensitize your body for a particular allergen.

When to Call a Doctor?

In the case of allergies, it is crucial to rely on a doctor rather than taking any medications by yourself as you might need a combination of drugs to get rid of your allergy symptoms. Sometimes doctors also recommend going for skin testing and look for the substances that you are allergic to.

Still, if you don’t feel like seeing a specialist, never ignore a professional if you have difficulty in breathing, or start having a skin rash, or you see severe swelling in your mouth.

In addition to that, if your fever is more than 101 F consistently, you will need to see an expert for a proper diagnosis.

Lastly, when your symptoms don’t clear up even after ten days. You might be suffering from a severe condition such as strep or pneumonia that will need a doctor’s intervention. If you are still troubled between allergy vs cold, seeing a doctor will be a better idea always.

How to Find a Reliable Doctor For Your Condition?

Although, you can take help from your family physician for relieving your condition. But, if you are unable to make time for a doctor’s appointment, seeing a doctor online might be helpful for you. For instance, you can get a diagnosis and a treatment plan with the help of Online Medical Clinics from the comfort of your home.

You need to follow the mentioned steps and get your prescription within a few minutes.

  • Check-in and start with your prequalification forms
  • Make the payment
  • Consult with a board-certified doctor using a video call
  • Get your treatment plan, along with prescription medications.
  • Follow up free of charge, if required.

To Sum it Up

Finding the difference between allergies vs. cold can be troublesome. So, the best idea is to see a doctor online and get your prescriptions on time without any further delay.