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Is It Allergies Or A Cold?

Is It Allergies Or A Cold?

Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Shuba Iyengar, MD, MPH
Dr. Shuba Iyengar, MD, MPH
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Shuba completed medical school at Duke University, earning her MPH in tandem at UNC. After a research fellowship at the NIH, Shuba completed her residency at Stanford, then fellowship in allergy-immunology at Boston Childrens/Harvard.

Shuba returned to the Bay Area to join Dr. Bocian at a large multi-speciality health system where she helped lead an allergy practice. She cofounded Allermi to make expert allergy care more accessible for all.

Have you ever found yourself sniffling and sneezing, wondering if it's just allergies acting up or if you've caught a cold? It can be challenging to differentiate between the two, but understanding the key differences can help you manage your symptoms more effectively.

Allergies and colds often share similar symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and congestion, making it tricky to pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. However, there are some distinctions to help you determine which you may be dealing with.

Allergies are typically triggered by exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. Symptoms usually come on suddenly and may include itching in the eyes, nose, or throat. On the other hand, a cold is caused by a virus and symptoms tend to develop more gradually. You may also experience a sore throat and body aches with a cold.

Common Signs of Allergies And Colds

When you start feeling under the weather, it can be challenging to determine whether you are experiencing allergies or a common cold. Both conditions share similar symptoms, but there are key differences that can help you identify the cause of your discomfort.

What are the common signs of allergies?
Allergies are typically triggered by exposure to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or certain foods. Common signs of allergies include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Itchy throat
  • Rashes or hives

    What are the common signs of a cold?
    Colds are caused by viruses and are contagious. Symptoms of a cold may include:

    • Coughing
    • Sore throat
    • Fever
    • Body aches
    • Fatigue

      How to differentiate between allergies and a cold
      While both allergies and colds can cause nasal congestion and sneezing, allergies are more likely to cause itching in the eyes, nose, or throat. Colds are often accompanied by a sore throat, cough, and fever, which are less common in allergies.

      Another key difference is the duration of symptoms. Allergy symptoms can persist as long as you are exposed to the allergen, while cold symptoms typically improve within a week or two.

      It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you are unsure about the cause of your symptoms. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment to help you feel better.

      Allergies Vs Colds FAQ

      What are the main causes of allergies?
      Allergies are typically triggered by exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, or certain foods. When your immune system overreacts to these substances, it releases histamines that cause symptoms like sneezing, itching, and congestion.

      How do colds differ from allergies?
      Colds are caused by viruses that are easily transmitted from person to person. Symptoms of a cold often include a sore throat, cough, and body aches. Unlike allergies, colds are contagious and can be spread through close contact with an infected individual.

      Can allergies cause a fever?
      Unlike colds, allergies typically do not cause a fever. If you have a fever along with your symptoms, it's more likely that you're dealing with a cold or another type of infection rather than allergies.

      How long do allergies and colds typically last?
      Allergies can last for weeks or even months, especially if you're exposed to allergens on a regular basis. Colds, on the other hand, usually last for about a week to 10 days. If your symptoms persist for longer than that, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider.

      What are the best ways to manage allergy and cold symptoms?
      For allergies, avoiding triggers, using over-the-counter antihistamines, and keeping your living space clean can help alleviate symptoms. Colds can be managed with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter cold medications. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, it's important to seek medical advice.


      Using multiple over-the-counter allergy treatments is not ideal for getting through allergy season. Skip the drugstore and get a personalized all-in-one allergy treatment from the comfort of your home.

      Allermi is a customized allergy nasal spray designed by experienced, board-certified allergists to solve your unique seasonal allergy symptoms. The Allermi formula is backed by science to give you the most effective allergy treatment for your individual allergy symptoms.

      The best part? Allermi nasal spray is easy to use and delivered straight to your door.