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Colds vs Allergies

Since the symptoms of a cold and allergies are so similar, it can be difficult to tell whether you have a cold or are suffering from allergies.  Here are some helpful hints to aid you in determining whether or not you have allergies:

Cold: A cold is caused by any of a number of viruses which cause your immune system to attack and remove the virus from your body.  In doing so, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • runny nose,
  • stuffed nose
  • nasal congestion
  • cough
  • aches
  • headache and fatigue

If you have a fever, consult your doctor because fevers can be a sign of a serious infection.

Allergies:  Allergies result in many of the same symptoms as the common cold because your body attacks common particles (pollen, dust, animal dander, etc.) as if it were a cold virus.  This can result in a runny nose, nasal congestion and fatigue in a similar manner as the common cold. 

However, there are a few key differences that will help you identify your cold or allergies.  Differences (preferably in a graphic representation):

  • The mucus from your runny nose will be clear if you have allergies and yellow/green if you have a cold. 
  • A cold will normally last for no longer than 7-10 days, but allergies will persist for as long as you are exposed to allergens. 
  • Allergy season is typically the fall and spring seasons. 

By contrast, cold season is the fall and winter.  Body aches and a fever will never be caused by your allergies and are tell-tale signs of a cold or the flu.  Unlike allergies, colds are contagious and can be spread through sneezing, coughing, and contact with other individuals.

Prevention:  You can help protect yourself from the viruses that cause colds by avoiding infected individuals and washing your hands.  The only way to avoid aggravating your allergies is by avoiding the allergen.  This can be done by checking the pollen count before going outside to avoid outdoor allergens and turning on the air-conditioner and keeping your house clean to avoid indoor allergens.