How Do You Know if You Have a Cold or Allergies?


Telling whether you have a cold or an allergic reaction can be nerve-racking based on early symptoms. The two elicit similar symptoms like sneezing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and fatigue. It is important that you learn to tell the two apart so that you can get the right medication. This can be done by first understanding what each entails.


A cold is an infection caused by over 200 subtypes of viruses, with the rhinovirus being the most common. It is often transmitted through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing, and it often affects the throat, trachea, sinuses, and nose. According to the CDC , a normal human being can experience at least two to three colds every year.


An allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to foreign substances that make it hypersensitive. Such substances include fur , pollen, dust, mold, or particular foods. The body thus produces antibodies to fight these substances that it considers harmful, often leading to inflammation of the sinuses, airways, or digestive system.

How to Tell the Difference

Below are several factors that can tell apart a cold from an allergy.

Duration of Symptoms

Allergy symptoms often flare up as soon the body comes to contact with an allergen and often last longer, especially if the triggering allergens are still present. On the other hand, cold symptoms develop gradually and last a couple of days, often three to seven days.


If you are experiencing fevers , it's an indication that you have a cold. Allergies do not usually cause fever.

Body Aches

Colds often come accompanied by body aches, unlike allergies, thus a differentiator of the two.

Types of Mucus

Mucus is a common symptom in both, but in allergies, the mucus is clear and thin, while it might turn thick yellow or green for a cold.

Red and watery eyes

Having watery and red eyes is a common symptom of an allergy which is not often common with a cold.

Time of the year

You are most likely to get a cold in winter as the viruses spread fast in cold weather and an allergy in spring when many pollens are in the air.

Talk to an Allergist Today

Some allergies can be life-threatening, thus necessitating immediate medical attention. At The Allergy Group, we offer advanced, comprehensive, and passionate care for moderate or complex allergies. Contact us today for top-notch services.