Is It A Cold or Allergies?

Woman SneezingIt’s now officially autumn, the season of the sniffles. Temperatures are beginning to drop, ragweed is still in the air, and kids are back in school and coming into contact with more germs.

If you or someone in your family seems to get a bad cold at the same time each year, it could be seasonal allergies. While allergies and colds can present similar symptoms, it is possible to tell them apart.

A cold is caused by a virus, while allergy symptoms surface when the immune system overreacts to an allergen like ragweed. Seasonal allergies cannot be passed from person to person, and they usually last for weeks; a cold can be passed on to someone else, and colds usually last a few days to a couple of weeks.

Dr. Vincent Iannelli points out at “Although the runny nose from a cold will start off being clear, it often turns yellow or green after 3-5 days, while children with allergies will continue to have just a clear runny nose.”

Below is a chart from the Mayo Clinic that summarizes some other differences (and similarities) between allergies and colds:

A Cold or Allergies?
Symptom Cold Allergy
Cough Usually Sometimes
General aches and pains Sometimes Never
Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy eyes Rarely Usually
Sneezing Usually Usually
Sore throat Usually Sometimes
Runny nose Usually Usually
Stuffy nose Usually Usually
Fever Rarely Never


If you suspect that you may have allergies, see your doctor and get tested. Once you know what you’re allergic to, you can avoid those allergens and feel better.

See Ragweed Season – Allergy Relief Tips to learn how to avoid this powerful autumn allergen using environmental control measures.

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