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Is It a Cold or Allergies?

This page provides information on how to tell the difference between a cold and allergies.

  1. Have the seasons changed?  If yes, it could be allergies. Seasonal allergies come at the same time every year and around the same set of circumstances, like when leaves start to fall or plants start to flower. Allergy symptoms such as sneezing, congestion or runny nose are the body’s responses to breathing in allergens (plant pollen or spores) that are released in the air. Colds, on the other hand, are caused by viruses that can turn up in any environment, during any time of year, but are more common in winter months.
  2. Did symptoms come on suddenly?  If yes, it could be allergies. Another indicator that you might be dealing with seasonal allergies is if symptoms come on suddenly and last a long time. Cold symptoms tend to come on more gradually and typically go away within 7-10 days, but allergies last as long as someone is exposed to an allergen, which can be for weeks or months.
  3. Are eyes itchy, red or watery?  If yes, it could be allergies. Kids with allergies can get this symptom when an allergen causes an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a clear membrane that covers the inner eyelids and eyeball.
  4. Is there an absence of fever and no yellow/greenish nasal discharge? If yes, it could be allergies. Allergy symptoms are never accompanied by a fever, while colds sometimes are. And with a runny nose due to allergies, the drainage will be thin and clear rather than thick yellow or green that comes with a cold.

For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.