Colds vs. Allergies

In the world of diseases, colds and allergies are close enough to be brothers. Both present similar symptoms, and it can be difficult to discern one from the other. If you know what to look for, however, there are some signposts that can clue in to whether you’re suffering from a cold or allergies.


The common cold is an infection caused by a virus. Common symptoms include cough, sneezing, sore throat, and nasal congestion. Occasionally, fatigue and general aches and pains may accompany these symptoms. The typical cold lasts a duration of 7-10 days, after which symptoms begin to clear up. The cold is commonly treated with pain relievers, over the counter decongestion remedies, and rest.


Unlike colds, allergies symptoms occur when the immune system reacts to exposure to allergens, substances that induce allergies. Symptoms of allergies can be similar to cold symptoms. Sneezing, runny nose, and cough are all common allergy symptoms. Allergies are usually treated with prescription or over the counter antihistamines, nasal steroid spray, decongestants, and by avoiding contact with allergens.

The Difference

There are several ways to distinguish a cold for allergy symptoms. First, the onset of a cold is somewhat gradual. Allergies can flare up in an instant when exposed to allergens. Colds have a finite duration, usually a week or so. Allergy symptoms can last for weeks if not treated or if exposure to an allergen is constant. While both cold and allergies manifest with runny noses and congestion, nasal discharge is yellow or green during a cold, while it’s clear during an allergy flare up. Itchy throat and eyes are common with allergies, while they rarely happen during cold.

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