Cold vs. Allergies: Which is Which?

How can you tell if your symptoms are due to allergies or a cold? Most of the time, it’s difficult to tell whether your symptoms are due to allergies or a cold. The symptoms of allergies can be very similar to the symptoms of the common cold, but there are some important differences.



What is an allergy?

An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it. An allergen is an otherwise harmless substance that causes an allergic reaction. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an allergic response to specific allergens. Pollen is the most common allergen in seasonal allergic rhinitis. These are allergy symptoms that occur with the change of seasons.


What causes allergic rhinitis?

When your body comes into contact with an allergen, it releases histamine, which is a natural chemical that defends your body from the allergen. This chemical can cause allergic rhinitis and its symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eye.


Fast facts on allergies from Medical News Today

  • Allergies are the result of an inappropriate immune response to a normally harmless substance.
  • Some of the most common allergens are dust, pollen, and nuts. They can cause sneezing, peeling skin, and vomiting.
  • Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.
  • To diagnose an allergy, a clinician may take a blood sample.
  • The symptoms of an allergy can be treated with drugs. However, the allergy itself requires desensitization.
  • Anaphylaxis requires emergency treatment. Epinephrine injectors can help reduce the severity of an anaphylactic reaction.





What is common cold?

The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). Most people get colds during cold weather: winter and rainy season. Symptoms usually include: sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and body aches. Most people recover within about 7-10 days, however, with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions, it may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.


What are the causes of common cold?

There are many types of viruses can cause a common cold, but the most culprit is the rhinoviruses. A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. A cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. It also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as utensils, towels or even toys.


Fast facts on colds from Medical News Today

  • Here are some key points about colds. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
  • Common cold symptoms include dry or sore throat, blocked or runny nose, and sneezing.
  • Around a quarter of people do not experience symptoms when infected with a cold.
  • Up to half of common colds are caused by a group of viruses referred to as rhinoviruses.
  • Complications of the common cold include acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • People with lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more vulnerable to colds than other people.






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