Cold or Allergies

Common Cold or Allergies? How to Tell the Difference

Fall weather marks the imminent return of cold and flu season. On average, adults will have 2 to 3 colds a year according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Common colds and allergies both share very similar symptoms. You may not be sick, it could just be allergies. Knowing the difference can help you decide what care you need.

These symptoms are common in both colds and allergies:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling tired

Here’s how to tell them apart:

  • Itchy, watery eyes are usually due to allergies
  • Body aches or chills do not happen with allergies, it is usually a sign of a cold
  • Colds take a day or two to develop and you won’t show symptoms right away. When symptoms come on suddenly, it’s more likely because of allergies
  • A fever is a sure sign of severe cold and is not an allergy symptom

A cold will go away on its own within 7 to 10 days. Over the counter medicines – like nasal decongestants and aspirin– can improve cold symptoms. Chicken soup is good for the soul and helps get your body’s immunity back on track.

Allergy related symptoms can last for weeks, especially if you are regularly exposed to what is causing them (like pet dander, pollen, or dust). Allergy relief comes in the form of decongestants and medicines with antihistamines, such as nasal sprays or tablets.

If you have symptoms that last longer than a week with no improvement, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor. They will help determine what course of treatment is best for you.

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