How Can I Tell Seasonal Allergies From a Cold?
Seasonal allergies are often confused with the common cold because they share common symptoms. Here’s how you can tell them apart.
Seasonal allergies and colds share common symptoms but have different causes, according to allergist Sandra Hong, MD.
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They are often confused, but she says you can tell them apart by noting:
Both allergies and colds cause sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, and fatigue. However, colds often cause symptoms one at a time: first sneezing, then a runny nose and nasal congestion. Allergies cause these symptoms all at once.
Cold symptoms generally last seven to 10 days while seasonal allergy symptoms generally last months at a time. Seasonal allergy symptoms continue as long as you are exposed to the allergen (symptom trigger). The symptoms will subside soon after exposure to the allergen ends.
Colds may cause a yellowish nasal discharge, suggesting an infection. Allergies generally cause a clear, thin, watery discharge.
Sneezing is more common with allergies (especially sneezing two to three times in a row).
Colds are more common during the winter months, whereas seasonal allergies are more common in spring through fall, when trees, grass, and weeds pollinate. Indoor allergies affect people year-round.
Colds may be accompanied by a fever. Allergies are not usually associated with a fever.
Itching is typical of allergies and it may affect eyes, nose, throat, and ears. Colds do not typically cause itching of any sort.
If you think you might have allergies, if your cold symptoms seem severe or if you are not getting better, see your doctor.