It’s that time of year again – sniffles and sneezing abound! But how do you know if you’re dealing with allergies or a cold? While many of the symptoms can be similar, there are some key differences to look out for.

What are Allergies?

Allergies are the result of your immune system overreacting to a substance it perceives as harmful. This can be anything from pollen and dust to pet dander or certain foods. Symptoms of allergies can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or ears
  • Rashes or hives

These symptoms can come on suddenly and can last for days or even weeks. Allergies are not contagious and will not lead to a fever or body aches.

What is a Cold?

A cold is a viral infection that can be caused by several different viruses. Symptoms of a cold can include:

  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Fever (sometimes)

Unlike allergies, a cold is contagious and can be passed from person to person. Symptoms usually come on gradually and can last for up to two weeks.

How to Tell the Difference

While some symptoms may overlap, there are a few key differences that can help you determine if you’re dealing with allergies or a cold. One of the biggest indicators is the duration of symptoms – allergies can last for weeks while a cold will typically clear up within two weeks.

Another way to tell the difference is to pay attention to the type of symptoms you’re experiencing. If you have a fever or body aches, it’s likely that you have a cold. Allergies typically do not come with these symptoms.

If you’re still unsure, it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider. They can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment.

Treatment for Allergies and Colds

The treatment for allergies and colds can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms. For allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays can be effective in reducing symptoms. Avoiding known allergens can also help prevent future allergic reactions.

For a cold, over-the-counter medications like decongestants and pain relievers can help alleviate symptoms. However, there is no cure for the common cold and it will usually just need to run its course.


Preventing allergies and colds can be difficult, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. Washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and keeping your living and work spaces clean can all help prevent the spread of germs.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, monitoring pollen counts and avoiding outdoor activities during peak allergy seasons can also help reduce your risk of an allergic reaction.

While allergies and colds can share some symptoms, there are key differences to look out for. By paying attention to the type and duration of your symptoms, you can determine whether you’re dealing with allergies or a cold. If you’re unsure, always consult with your healthcare provider for the best course of treatment.