Is it a Cold? Or is it Allergies? Tips to Telling the Difference Between Allergies and a Cold

Congestion. Sore throat. Sneezing. We all know the symptoms of a cold. But we also know allergy season is around the corner, and reactions to allergens are very similar to cold symptoms. So how do we know the difference between allergies and a cold? Here are a few tips to help you hone in on a basic diagnosis and help determine if your stuffy nose is a sign of illness or allergy.

Checklist for Determining the Difference Between a Cold and Allergies

While both may start out with sniffles and that sinking realization that says, “Oh no, I’m coming down with something,” there are distinct differences between a cold and allergies.  Here are a few symptoms to watch that will help you tell the difference.

Check Your Tissues: As unappealing as this may sound, pay attention to the mucus you’re producing for clues about your health.  If the mucus in your tissue is clear, it’s likely due to mucus made from an allergy.  If, however, the mucus is green, brown, cloudy, or clumpy in its consistency, you may be dealing with an illness, and it might be a good idea to check in with your doctor.

Check Your Body: If you are experiencing body aches in addition to coughing and congestion, you’re probably battling a cold. Allergic reactions cause swelling in throats or nasal passages when exposed to foreign elements; it’s a way our body protects us from harmful effects of the environment. But allergies do not make muscles in the body tender or achy. However, illness from viral or bacterial infections causes inflammation within the body, leading to aches, pains, and muscle discomfort.

Check Your Eyes: Suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold may make you want to cry, but a cold usually won’t kick up problems with your eyes as allergies do. So if your eyes are watery, itchy, or red, it’s more likely you’re struggling with allergies than coming down with a cold.

Check the Dates: Unfortunately, allergies can last weeks or even months, depending upon what’s triggering your response. If you’re suffering from allergies, you may struggle an entire season with unsavory symptoms. On the other hand, a cold typically lasts only about 7-10 days, according to the CDC. So think back to when your symptoms started. If your condition persists for weeks on end, an at home allergy test may help you determine the culprit of your persistent allergic reactions.

Check Your Cough: Constant coughing is commonly a symptom of a cold rather than an allergy. Although inhaling certain irritants can trigger allergic reactions, a long-term cough indicates respiratory imbalances that may manifest into an infection or cold. If your cough persists, check with your doctor to get down to the bottom of your discomfort.

Check Your Temperature: This is a bit of a tricky tip because not all colds produce a fever. But, conversely, even though hay fever is an allergy, it does not cause a fever. In fact, no allergies should cause an increase in body temperature.  In other words, if you have a fever, you are probably fighting with some kind of virus or infection.

Check With a Meteorologist: If you are still mystified by stubborn sneezing and sniffles, check your local weather forecast.  If there is a high pollen count, that might be your answer to what’s causing your symptoms. Pay attention to your body and keep track of pollen counts in your area. If your symptoms worsen when the pollen count gets higher, it might be time to consult an allergist or physician. Also, keep in mind (depending upon where you live) seasonal allergies are less prevalent during the winter. This is because freezing conditions tend to kill or hamper the plant life that is spewing pollen in the air.  Therefore, if you’re suffering from cold symptoms in the wintertime, it’s more likely a cold or flu than allergies.

Have an Issue? Grab a Tissue and Contact Your Physician

Let’s face it. Feeling sick isn’t fun, no matter what the cause. Hopefully, these tips to determining if you have a cold or allergies will help you self-diagnose and start treating your symptoms accordingly. That said, please consult with your doctor to be 100% sure of your health condition and get the proper treatment for your best health.