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Is it a cold or allergies?

Cold or Allergies

Photo Credit: Flickr/Anna Gutermuth

Is it a cold or allergies?

By Carolyn Hauck on April 09, 2015

The blooming season of spring can sometimes be synonymous with allergies. When we start sneezing and wheezing this time of year, it’s hard to tell if we’re suffering from a viral cold or allergies.

Dr. Love, a physician on JustAnswer confirms that it is indeed hard to distinguish between a cold and allergies, “It is frequently difficult to differentiate a viral infection from allergies based solely on symptoms, as there is a large amount of overlap of symptoms [between colds and allergies].”

Colds and allergies both commonly produce sneezing, runny nose and congestion. While sore throats and low-grade fevers are sometimes symptomatic of allergies, they’re more likely due to a viral cold.

How to tell the difference

1. The primary way to distinguish between a cold and allergies is duration. Colds usually run their course anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. If symptoms persist past a couple of weeks, you might be experiencing allergies and should consider talking with a doctor about your symptoms.

2. Sore throats are a more common symptom of a cold, You can suffer from a sore throat with allergies if you are experiencing a nasal drip, but as Dr. Love continues, “Congestion and sore throat are much more likely to be a viral infection, particularly if the symptoms have been of short duration (days to a week or so), viral infections are overall much more common [than allergies].”

3. Fevers are more indicative of colds than allergies. Low-grade fevers are possible with allergies but are uncommon.

4. Nasal discharge with colds tends to be a yellow or greenish color, whereas allergies produce higher level of clear mucus or discharge.

5. Itchy noses and watery eyes point to allergies rather than a cold.

What to do about the discomfort

While you should check your symptoms with a doctor first, Dr. Robert on JustAnswer outlines a few ways to find relief:

  • For sinus congestion, neti pots or over-the-counter saline sprays can help clear nasal passages and help you breath.
  • Humidifiers are good for sinus infections, while air purifiers help clear pollen out of your house.
  • Nasal decongestants, Afrin, and antihistamines can all bring relief, but it’s best to consult a doctor first.
  • Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. You need to be tested before taking antibiotics, as they can kill good bacteria in your body and are ineffective on viruses or allergies.

List your symptoms to a doctor on JustAnswer for a better idea on how to find congestion relief.