The Difference Between A Cold And Allergies

December 26, 2017  |  
1 of 15 shot of a young woman blowing her nose while sitting on the sofa

The change of seasons is a confusing time for your poor sinuses. The leaves changing colors can mean different allergens irritating your sinuses, but they also mean a change in temperature, which can trigger a cold. When you wake up with that itchy throat, stuffy nose, and incessant sneezing, it’s hard to know if it’s your allergies or a cold. But it is important to know which one it is, because the medications for each of these—respectively—do very different things to your body. If you’re taking the wrong one, you won’t feel any better, and you may just wind up putting up with unpleasant side effects for no reason. You also need to adjust your activity levels, and how you spend your time, differently depending on if you have a cold or allergies. You may still hit the gym thinking you have allergies, when you have a cold, and make matters worse. Here are the differences between colds and allergies.

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Colds make you sleepy

Colds cause a lot of fatigue. Allergies might make you feel foggy in the morning, but that should clear up by the time you get ready for the day. Meanwhile, colds make it feel impossible to do a simple task like walking the dog. drops on dry eyes

Allergies make your eyes itch

Allergies will make your eyes itch. Colds may make them bleary and tired, but not itchy. Overall, allergies will cause itching (eyes, throat, skin) whereas colds cause aches.


Colds make swallowing painful

Both allergies and colds affect your throat, but colds make swallowing painful. Allergies won’t affect your ability to swallow.


Allergies give you an itchy throat

Allergies will, as mentioned before, cause itching. They can make it feel as if you have a constant scratch in your throat, like you’ve swallowed dry pepper.

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Colds have you coughing all day

Colds will cause frequent coughing, all day long. If your partner is complaining that your coughs have become the soundtrack for the house, then you likely have a cold.

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Allergies have you coughing at night

Allergies also cause coughing, but because of the post-nasal drip that comes with them, they mostly cause coughing at night. If coughing is keeping you and your significant other up, you likely have allergies.

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Both are worst in the morning

Both colds and allergies are the worst in the morning. But allergies tend to subside throughout the day, gearing up again at night. Colds keep you miserable all day long.


You can take allergy medicine once a day

You can typically take just one 24-hour allergy medication and be good for the full 24 hours. You typically need to take cold medicine ever four to six hours to feel relatively normal.

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Colds give you a slight fever

Colds give you a fever—not always, but sometimes—whereas allergies never give you one. A surefire way to see if you’re sick is to take your temperature. This is also important to do because you want to take the right medicine; allergy medications don’t contain fever-reducers.

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Cold symptoms ramp up

Cold symptoms take a few days to begin. You first feel a tickle in your throat one morning, then congestion the second day, and maybe a fever the third.


Allergy symptoms rush in

Allergy symptoms can come in full force and quickly. You can experience severe allergy symptoms within a half hour of being exposed to the irritant.

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Allergy symptoms last for months

A cold will not last for months on end. If you’ve been suffering from symptoms for several months, then you have allergies. A cold will only last a few days or up to a week.


Colds cause body aches

Colds cause your entire body to feel achy, which is something allergies won’t do. If moving around your house hurts, you probably have a cold.

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Colds create green mucus

Infections tend to create green mucus, whereas allergies might keep your mucus white or slightly yellow.

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Allergy medicine makes you feel bad on a cold

If you take allergy medicine, believing you have allergies, but wind up feeling oddly wired and exhausted at the same time, you likely have a cold. The caffeine in allergy medication isn’t good for you when you have a cold.

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