How Can I Tell the Difference Between a Cold and Allergies?

Elizabeth Haney

Phipps Pharmacy

Mckenzie, Tennessee

September 1, 2023

It’s that time of the year when many of us suffer from a runny nose, headache, and feeling more tired than usual, but how do you know if those sniffles and sneezes are the start of a cold or allergies? The best way is to look at your symptoms, how fast they started, how long they last, and any patterns or predictable times in which you experience them.

A cold is caused by a virus, most commonly rhinovirus, and can be spread from person to person. The common cold typically lasts for seven to ten days, with the symptoms resolving on their own and requiring no treatment.

Allergies are caused by an immune system reaction related to environmental exposures and cannot be spread from person to person, like a cold can. Triggers for allergies can include dust mites, pets, mold, pollen, and cigarette smoke. Unlike a cold, allergies can continue for as long as a person is exposed, with symptoms that come and go based on the environment.

Fever, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue with symptoms that slowly get worse before getting better in seven to ten days are likely a cold. Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and wheezing that starts suddenly are more likely to be allergies related to environmental exposures, like cats and pollen. If you have any questions related to allergies, colds, or their treatment options, ask your local pharmacist!

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent that of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat any health condition and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health professional.

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