How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and Allergies

It’s allergy time, everybody! Things are starting to grow and bloom, and that means the start of the season of suffering for allergy folks. (How ironic that the Midwest actually got SNOW on the first day of spring — northern Kentucky got four inches and parts of Saint Louis got up to eight inches of the white stuff!) But if you start to have symptoms… how do you know whether it’s a cold or allergies?

Colds and allergies share a lot of the same symptoms. Either one can come with a cough, sneezing, sore throat, and runny nose. But despite some similar symptoms, the two are actually very different.

Colds are caused by viruses that spread easily from person to person. They can develop at any time and can last up to two weeks. A cold is typically treated with over-the-counter medicine, like decongestants and cough suppressants. There isn’t really a “cure” for a cold; you can only treat the symptoms.

A cold usually comes with the following symptoms:

  • Cough
  • General body ache
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy/runny nose

Allergies are your body’s response to allergens — things that you are allergic to. Allergens vary from person to person; even in the same family, different allergies may develop. Allergies can attack any time, but you may notice that your problems start up in the spring and fall if you are allergic to pollen. Untreated, your seasonal allergy symptoms can last for months. There are several ways to treat your allergies, but you have to see your doctor to find out exactly what you are allergic to first. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can help desensitize you to allergens over a period of time. Antihistamines and decongestants can help ease your symptoms in the meantime.

Allergies usually come with the following symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Sore Throat
  • Stuffy/runny nose

Don’t take this as gospel; allergies can look like a cold, and a cold can look like allergies. The information here can help you ask the right questions of your doctor.

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