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Allergies or Cold? How to Tell the Difference

Allergy season and cold season often overlap, making it tricky to distinguish between the two. But allergies and colds have some distinct differences. Here’s how to tell if your runny nose and sneezing are due to allergies or a cold:

Timing & Duration

Allergies usually begin and peak at specific times of year when certain plants pollinate. Symptoms like sneezing, congestion and itchy eyes persist as long as you’re exposed to the allergen. Colds can happen year-round, last about 1-2 weeks, and taper off as the virus runs its course.

Common Allergy Symptoms

- Itchy, watery eyes

- Thin, clear nasal discharge

- Sneezing, especially in bursts

- Itchy nose, throat and roof of mouth

- Congestion but nose is often drippy

Common Cold Symptoms

- Sore throat

- Fever

- Aches and pains

- Thick, discolored nasal discharge

- Congestion with stuffy, blocked nose

- Cough, especially at night

Allergies don’t cause fever, body aches or colored mucus. Colds rarely cause itchy, watery eyes or lots of sneezing. Pay attention to timing and types of symptoms to determine which you’re dealing with.

Finding Relief

Colds just need rest, fluids and over-the-counter meds for symptom relief. Allergies are treated by avoiding triggers, using nasal sprays and antihistamines, or getting immunotherapy. See your doctor if symptoms persist or you’re unsure of the cause. Identifying allergies vs a cold properly leads to the right treatment plan.



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