Q. How do I tell the difference between allergies and a cold?

Doctor Answer is medically reviewed by SecondMedic medical review team.

Answered by Seconmedic Expert

Distinguishing between allergies and a cold can sometimes be tricky, as they share several symptoms. However, there are key differences that can help you identify which condition you might be dealing with:

Onset and Duration:

Allergies: Symptoms often appear suddenly after exposure to an allergen (such as pollen, pet dander, or dust) and can last as long as you are exposed to the trigger.
Cold: Symptoms tend to develop more gradually and typically improve within a week to ten days.

Allergies: Common symptoms include sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, clear nasal discharge, and itchiness in the throat or ears.
Cold: Symptoms might include sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose with thicker mucus, sore throat, coughing, and sometimes a mild fever.

Allergies: Generally, allergies do not cause a fever. If you have a fever, it's more likely to be due to a cold or another type of infection.
Body Aches and Fatigue:

Allergies: These symptoms are not typical of allergies. Allergies usually don't cause body aches or extreme fatigue.
Cold: Body aches and fatigue can be common with a cold, especially during the initial days.
Pattern and Triggers:

Allergies: Symptoms tend to recur seasonally or when exposed to specific allergens.
Cold: Colds can happen at any time of the year and are often spread through contact with infected individuals.
Duration of Symptoms:

Allergies: Symptoms can persist for as long as you're exposed to the allergen, but they generally do not worsen significantly.
Cold: Symptoms often peak around the second or third day and gradually improve within a week.
If you're unsure about whether you have allergies or a cold, it's a good idea to consult a medical professional. They can provide a proper diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, and any necessary tests. Keep in mind that while over-the-counter medications can provide relief for both allergies and colds, it's important to choose the right type of medication based on your specific symptoms and condition.

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