When someone repeatedly coughs or sneezes, the first assumption many people make is that he/she has a cold.  While both sneezing and coughing are common symptoms of a cold, it’s possible that the individual may in fact have allergies. Because allergy and cold symptoms are often identical, it can be difficult to tell them apart. To discover what you are suffering from, it is important to listen to your body and pay attention to the symptoms and how long they last.

A cold is a contagious virus that is generally spread through tiny air droplets that are released when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Other common cold symptoms include sore throat, runny nose and fatigue. Cold season tends to occur during winter months, but it is possible to catch a cold any time of year.

Unlike colds, allergies are not contagious and are triggered by reactions in the immune system to foreign substances that you may come in contact with, such as pollen, dust, mold, animal dandruff or even certain foods or medication. Upon exposure, the immune system releases histamines to fight off these substances. Though allergies can develop at any time, they are usually seasonal, affecting individuals around the same time each year.

Here are some key symptom differences between a cold and allergies:

  • Indicator symptoms – Though both have many common symptoms, there are slight differences. A cold is often accompanied with body aches, headaches and fevers. Allergies can cause rashes and itchy eyes.
  • Nasal discharge – The color of nasal discharge can help you determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing are cold or allergy-related. A cold yields green or yellow nasal discharge, while allergy discharges often appear clear.
  • Length of symptoms – It is important to keep track of how long your symptoms last and what time of year they occur. A cold usually lasts 7–10 days, while allergies last much longer.

While treating symptoms can be challenge, most times our immune system is simply doing what it is designed to do. Take heart in knowing that your immune system is fighting for you! To schedule an appointment with a FHCSD provider to determine if you are suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold, call (619) 515-2300.