How to Tell the Difference Between Allergies and a Cold

Seasonal allergies and colds can lead to a variety of similar symptoms, such as sneezing or a runny nose. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between both conditions to ensure that you’re getting appropriate medical treatment and to determine whether the people around you may be at risk of getting sick.

Colds and allergies are caused by different factors; as a result, they generally require different types of medication for effective treatment. Colds, which are viral, can be treated with pain relievers, antiviral medication, and rest. Allergies, which are immune system responses to certain substances, are best treated with antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. Some medication, such as decongestants, can be helpful for both colds and allergies.

Colds and allergies can also lead to different symptoms. For example, allergies are more likely than colds to lead to eye irritation and itchiness. On the other hand, a fever, as well as general aches and pains throughout the body, can both occur due to a cold; however, they will almost never occur because of an allergy. A cold is also more likely to cause:

  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest discomfort

Allergies and colds also differ in terms of how long symptoms may take to resolve. The symptoms of a cold typically last up to a week. Symptoms of an allergy, however, could take weeks to resolve. This is due, in part, to exposure to allergens; if you have a seasonal allergy to a substance such as pollen, for example, it may be difficult to avoid exposure during the course of your daily activities until the end of the season.

You can receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for either seasonal allergies or colds at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.