It’s a familiar scene: you wake up one morning with a sore throat and later notice your nose beginning to run. You wonder if you’re getting a cold, but don’t think much of it. Days go by and the same nagging symptoms persist. You start taking cold medicine and, while it gives you periods of relief, weeks pass and you begin to wonder if you’ll ever feel better.
Here’s the problem: you might be treating the wrong ailment. Since colds and seasonal allergies can present many of the same symptoms, it’s not uncommon to mistake one for the other. Knowing the difference can help you properly treat the problem and get yourself on the path to wellness sooner.
So: cold or allergies. How do you know?
While not unheard of with allergies, coughs are far more likely to accompany colds. If coughing is one of your main symptoms, it’s a safe bet you’re suffering from a cold and not allergies.
A fever – along with general aches and pains – means your body is fighting a virus. Even though a fever is rarely a symptom of allergies, it’s also not commonly associated with colds and could be a sign you have the flu.
Yes, this is gross. But the color of your mucus can tell you a lot about what your body is fighting. If the mucus is thick and green or yellow in color, you have a cold. If it’s clear, you’re likely suffering from seasonal allergies.
Colds are more prominent in the colder months, while seasonal allergies tend to occur in the spring, summer and fall.
Common causes of winter allergies are dust and mold from the furnace, as well as pet dander, saliva and urine from pets.
Allergies can also vary depending on your location. If you experienced similar symptoms around the same time last year, you probably have allergies.
Bad colds can last up to two weeks, but allergies will last much longer. If your symptoms persist over weeks or even months, your body is likely fighting an allergy to something you are consistently being exposed to.
This is a common symptom for allergy sufferers and a rare occurrence for the common cold.
Determining the difference between your symptoms can get you on the right track to feeling better, sooner. If you think allergies are the problem, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for managing your reaction. If you’ve caught a cold, rest up and consider medicating your symptoms– you’ll probably feel better in just a few days. If your cold lingers and you develop more serious symptoms—chills, body aches, a fever or vomiting—you could actually have the flu.