Knowing the differences between cold & allergies

You might have experienced a situation where you find yourself sneezing and coughing repeatedly. However, what really puzzles you is the underlying cause for both these situations. Is cold the reason or any allergy? For certain, it might be tough to decide between the two as other symptoms may appear to be similar as well. The decision too difficult to decide can be solved with the help of some medical research. This article will do exactly that: by exploring the major differences between the two conditions

Fact Profile

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention releases research finding every year relating to a number of illnesses. The reports describing cold validate some essential details. Cold is one of the most common diseases. Average trends have shown that every adult can possibly be inflicted with this illness twice in one year. Frequency increasing in children because of low immune development.

On the other hand, allergies do not paint a fortunate picture as well. The foundation responsible for the prevention of different allergies, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, reports that out of the entire US population, an estimate of 50 million people will have some kind of allergy affecting their body. It is known to be the 6th leading cause of Chronic illness in the US.


As highlighted earlier, both allergies and cold may appear same to a major chunk of the population and self-diagnosing may be difficult due to a number of similar symptoms. However, medical research highlights some key differences. As a first step, it is important to evaluate the duration of both the conditions.

Following table will help categorize cold and fever in a meaningful manner:





People who get infected with a cold, will find that when the duration of the illness extends beyond a certain time, symptoms may intensify. As a consequence, a high degree of fever results. Children are more likely to experience fever compared to adults. Surprisingly, allergies rarely cause fever

Sore throat

May occur but often in rare circumstances. Allergies are often categorized on the basis of a sore throat as this symptom takes over the person in the initial stage. People will allergies allow the streptococcus bacteria to reside which causes a sore throat

Body Aches

Like with fever, body aches usually occur when the symptoms of cold develop in the later stage. Often when the condition gets sever, a patient may experience phases of body pains. Body ache is not a characteristic of allergies.

Eczema (inflammation of skin causing the development of rough, itchy patches)

Eczema is not a symptom of a cold. One of the most effective ways to diagnose any allergy is by noticing the red patches on the skin that causes irritability.


There have been differences between the medical community on the duration of cold and allergy. The difficulty in reaching a consensus arising because there remains no hard and fast rule which could highlight the termination of the illness. However, according to most experts, a typical cold will last for not more than 10 days. In case, where the duration exceeds, it becomes important to see the doctor as it may indicate the presence of an underlying illness.

On the other hand, allergy can last for a day or for months subjected to the presence of allergen substances within the inflicted person’s vicinity. One other interesting way to tell the difference between cold and an allergy is through the history of the condition. In other words, a cold will usually occur during a particular season (winter) and the chances significantly become less during off seasons. Meanwhile, allergy is a triggering condition, triggered when allergens are detected. For example, if you find yourself sneezing, or your eyes turn watery when you are near a cat, then this may indicate that you are allergic to cat hair! The crux is to be vigilant enough to detect the real cause and trigger of allergy.


Despite all the differences we have tried highlighting, in many ways do both appear to be similar to each other. We will now look at how.

  1. Both the conditions can cause a runny nose and drainage of fluid from the nasal passage. Sometimes the nose gets blocked as a consequence disrupting taste senses. This stuffing of nose may at times lead to sinus pain
  2. Coughing categorizes both the ailments. Having a cold may cause wet coughs that occur repeatedly
  3. This is probably the best self-diagnosing technique for allergies and cold. Usually, when exposed to any allergen substance, sneezing is an instant body response
  4. Irritation and redness of eyes may be one other common feature. Referred as conjunctivitis, the thin tissue layer covering the eyelid gets inflamed.


Treatment for Cold

With seasonal colds, the intensification of symptoms lessens over time, as a result, the condition heals in its entirety no later than a two-week time span. While the common mistake people tend to make when diagnosed with a cold is: using antibiotics. As the name suggests, antibiotics are used for treating ailments that result due to bacteria residing in a person’s body. They will have no effect on cold which essentially is caused by a virus. However, the fortunate side of the story highlights certain synthetic as well as natural remedies which can considerably be effective in treating the cold condition.

The synthetic way of treating cold includes the use of cough syrups, sprays that are known to be decongestant and ibuprofen which work as pain killers. A precautionary method which needs to be considered as that decongestant spray and cold medicines are not to be used for treating children (under the age of 6) who are diagnosed with a cold. Even so, sometimes the former is not advised for pregnant women. Thereby, the advice of a medical professional should be considered as an imperative and should not be sidelined.

In addition, the home remedies to treat cold have an exhaustive list which one can follow to effectively lessen the symptoms including mouth gargling with salt water, use of boiling steams that enter the nasal passage and acts as a decongestant and replenishing the body with lots of fluids. Use of  Caffeine products are strongly not emphasized for they may increase the problem as opposed to resolving.

Treatment for Allergies

As highlighted earlier, the first precautionary step for treating allergies include being well aware of the thing/substance causing it. Avoiding these triggers can work more effectively than the use of synthetic drugs. Yet, medical professionals are able to list down some medications/techniques which a patient suffering from allergy should consider:

  • Antihistamines: Particularly helps in treating conjunctivitis by stopping the production of histamine that causes dilation of blood vessels. Side effects may range from reduced sexual drive to drowsiness. Always ingest the oral antihistamines before sleeping to lessen the side effects
  • Allergy Shots: An intravenous injection desensitizes the body to the allergens. People often use allergy shots as a long term procedure
  • Nasal Corticosteroids: Helps relieve swelling of the nose by obstructing inflammation. Corticosteroids also hinder the multiplication of allergy causing cells.




Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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