Knowing the difference between allergies and a cold, especially during allergy seasons, can be incredibly difficult, especially for people who may not experience allergies or get sick often. However, there are some key differences between allergies and a cold:

The Similarities

Knowing the similarities between your allergies and cold is the first step to identifying them. Both seasonal allergies, dust allergies, and the common cold have quite a few things in common, including a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Both colds and allergies also come with stuffy sinuses, post-nasal drip, and often a sore throat.

Headaches are another common symptom between colds and allergies, although not everyone gets headaches when sick, and not everyone has headaches as a symptom of allergies.


There are a few key differences between cold symptoms and allergy symptoms, the first and foremost being the presence of a fever. While not everyone gets a fever alongside their common cold, signs of a fever accompanying any cold-like symptoms are the best way to tell someone is sick. Other symptoms colds have that allergies do not include muscle aches and pains, along with fatigue and weakness. Unlike a cold, allergies often come with itchy eyes as well, especially if there is lots of pollen outside.

Timing is Everything

It is also important to note the timing of your symptoms. Do you tend to experience symptoms at the same time every year? Do your symptoms stay relatively consistent for several weeks? Chances are, you’re suffering from allergies. Colds, on the other hand, tend to only last about a week or two.

The speed that your symptoms occur is another detail to watch for since colds take time to develop and go away, while allergies can affect someone minutes after exposure to an allergen. 

Hay Fever

Sometimes, the lines between allergies and a cold blur to the point where we get hay fever. Unlike standard allergy symptoms, hay fever has a few extra symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and sometimes bluish bags under the eyes. Someone with hay fever is also more likely to have a sore throat and watery eyes. Even though hay fever is not caused by a virus, it can still knock someone out the same way a cold can and should be treated with the same level of concern. If you or a loved one experiences frequent, debilitating allergy symptoms like hay fever, consider speaking with your primary care physician.

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