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OneWellness December 18, 2023

Decoding Symptoms: Allergies vs. the Common Cold

Medically Reviewed by Pharm. Emmanuella Oladeni

Written by

Have you ever found yourself sniffling, sneezing, and reaching for a tissue, unsure if you're suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold? While allergies and colds can have similar symptoms, distinguishing between the two is essential for effective management and treatment. In this article, we'll look at the key differences between allergies and the common cold, so you can sneeze and sniffle with confidence.



Duration and onset:

The onset and duration of symptoms can also indicate whether you are suffering from an allergy or a cold. Allergy symptoms usually appear soon after being exposed to an allergen and can last for as long as the allergen is present. Cold symptoms, on the other hand, typically appear a few days after virus exposure and last about a week, though they can last up to two weeks.




While some symptoms of allergies and colds overlap, certain signs can help differentiate the two:

Itchy eyes and nose: Allergies are more commonly associated with itchy or watery eyes. Allergies may be to blame if you find yourself rubbing your eyes frequently, especially during certain seasons or in certain environments.



Fever: Colds frequently accompany a low-grade fever, whereas allergies rarely cause an increase in body temperature.



Symptom Duration: If your symptoms last for an extended period of time, they may be due to allergies. Colds typically last between one and two weeks.



Throat Irritation: A sore throat is a common cold symptom that, unless there is concurrent sinus drainage, is rarely associated with allergies.



Onset of Symptoms: If your symptoms appear suddenly, you may have a cold. Allergies typically develop gradually.




Treatment methods for allergies and colds differ as well. Allergies are best managed by avoiding triggers whenever possible and treating symptoms with antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids. Rest, staying hydrated, and over-the-counter medications are used to treat cold symptoms such as fever, congestion, and cough.




While some symptoms of allergies and the common cold are similar, understanding the differences between the two can be critical for effective management. Identifying the source of your symptoms, tracking their onset and duration, and recognizing specific signs can help you distinguish between allergies and colds. If uncertainty persists, consulting a healthcare professional can provide personalized advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. With this knowledge, you can confidently navigate sniffle season and take the necessary precautions.


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