A Cold or Allergies?

The symptoms of colds and allergies are similar and oftentimes confused with one another, making it difficult to tell the difference between the two. A runny nose, scratchy throat, headache, and congestion are all typical symptoms of both colds and allergies, which is where the confusion comes in. While there are overlapping symptoms between these two conditions, there are several distinct differences you should be aware of. The most significant difference between a cold and an allergy is the cause of the disease. There are several other factors to keep in mind when trying to determine if you have a cold or allergies, one of which is timing.

If you always seems to get a ‘cold’ at the same time of year, or if your nose starts running every spring or fall, you have seasonal allergies, not an actual cold. Keep this in mind as we go over some of the causes and additional symptoms of both conditions. Remember, if you ever have a question about a specific symptom or would like more information regarding allergies and colds, please do not hesitate to contact one of our ENT doctors in Arlington, Dallas or Fort Worth.

Causes When trying to determine if you have a cold or seasonal allergies, it may be helpful to understand the causes of each. Colds are caused by more than 200 viruses that can be picked up from a wide range of places, such as other people, doorknobs, food, and so on. Once the cold virus has entered your body, the immune system tries to combat it by going into overdrive. This then causes the body to release different chemicals, which then results in the type of symptoms we commonly associated with the common cold.On the other hand, allergies are not caused by viruses, but result from an overactive immune system. Certain substances such as pollen, pet dander, pet hair, or dust may cause allergies in some people. With allergies, the body releases different chemicals in order to try and fight off the allergy. This chemicals are different than those released to combat the common cold.
Characteristics The differences between a common cold and allergies are as follows:

  • Typically last between 3-14 days
  • Most often occur in the winter, but possible at any time
  • Symptoms only take a few days to appear after infection from the virus
  • Typically last anywhere from days to months for seasonal; everyday for perennial
  • Can occur any time of year; some are seasonal
  • Symptoms begin immediately after exposure to specific allergen

While a cough, fatigue, itchiness, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, and stuffy nose are all common symptoms associated with both colds and allergies, there are a few symptoms that never occur with allergies. Fever and general aches and pains are two of the symptoms that are only associated with colds. If you have any questions regarding the symptoms, causes, or treatment, please contact our ENT clinic in Arlington, Dallas or Fort Worth.