Is It a Cold or Allergies?

Apr 03, 2023
Is It a Cold or Allergies?
When you have a cold, you typically get a case of sniffles and a runny nose. However, the same thing happens when you have allergies, so how do you distinguish between the two? Read on to learn how.

If you've got a runny nose and a cough and can’t stop sneezing, you may ask yourself if it is a common cold or allergies. While it can be tough to tell the difference, the best way to distinguish between colds and allergies is by understanding their causes and symptoms.

Whether it's your allergies acting up or a cold, Dr. Mani Zadeh, our board-certified head and neck surgeon, gets to the bottom of your symptoms and provides long-lasting relief. 

Here, he breaks down the main differences between a cold and allergies and how to identify them. 

What to know about the common cold 

The common cold is a viral infection. Although colds can stem from various viruses, the most common culprit is the rhinovirus. It spreads when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes or if you touch something with the virus on it. 

Common cold symptoms include a sore throat, cough, a stuffy or runny nose, and fatigue. 

You may also get a mild fever or chills, but not always. 

What to know about allergies 

Unlike colds, allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. 

These substances are usually harmless, but your body treats them like a threat. Allergy symptoms are similar to cold symptoms — you might sneeze a lot, get a runny or stuffy nose, and even a cough.

How to tell the difference between a cold and allergies 

There are many ways to tell the difference between a cold and allergies. One clue is the timing. Colds are more common in the winter, while allergies can happen any time of year, depending on what you're allergic to. 

Also, if your symptoms have been going on for more than two weeks, it's more likely to be allergies. Exhibiting symptoms like a fever or body aches typically indicate a cold, not allergies. On the other hand, having itchy or watery eyes are more common with allergies.

When should you see a doctor?

While you can manage most colds at home, consult Dr. Zadeh if your symptoms become severe or last longer than 10 days. Signs to look out for include difficulty breathing, a high fever, chest pain, or persistent coughing. 

If your symptoms persist for over a week, they could be allergies, a sinus infection, or another underlying condition. 

With allergies, if over-the-counter medications aren't providing relief, or your allergy symptoms are affecting your quality of life, it's time to visit Dr. Zadeh. He can recommend treatments, such as prescription medications or allergy shots, to help manage your symptoms and provide long-lasting relief.

Distinguishing between colds and allergies can be confusing, but paying attention to the differences can help you figure out which one you're dealing with.

Whether you're dealing with a cold or allergies, it's essential to contact Dr. Zadeh if you're unsure about your symptoms or if they're limiting your quality of life. He can identify the underlying cause and recommend the best course of action. Get started by booking an appointment online or calling 310-286-0123.