Is It Allergies or a Cold? How to Tell and When to Seek Treatment

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between allergies and a cold. They both tend to cause a scratchy throat, sneezing, and a runny or stuffed nose, for starters. However, one is potentially contagious to others around you and the other is not, which could mean the difference between going to work or school and staying home. To figure out which is bothering you, consider a few subtle differences.

How Long Does It Last?

With few exceptions, the best ear nose and throat doctor in Spring, TX will say that duration of the symptoms is the primary indicator of whether it’s an allergy or a cold. Colds typically do not last more than five to 10 days and will definitely clear up by two weeks. Allergies remain for weeks or months — as long as the allergen is still prevalent.

Is It Cyclical or Otherwise Tied to Exposure?

Many people experience an allergy flare-up during certain times of the year, particularly spring, when pollen is abundant, and fall, when plants are hibernating for the winter. If you have a “cold” at the same time each year, it’s probably an allergy to something outside during those weeks. If it’s not cyclical but you notice it always happens when exposed to something, such as pet dander or dusty environments, it’s still likely to be an allergy.

What Are Your Symptoms?

While colds and allergies share some symptoms, they don’t share all symptoms. Colds can cause aches and fever, and allergies cannot. Colds also often cause coughing, and allergies only sometimes do. Allergies are more likely to cause itchy, watery eyes than colds as well.

If any uncomfortable or painful symptoms last longer than a week, book an appointment with a Spring Medical Associates primary care physician or ENT specialist as soon as possible. Only a doctor can rule out potentially more serious causes. Whatever the cause, there is treatment, and over-the-counter options may simply not be enough to help you feel better.