Is it a cold or an allergy?
If you tend to get colds that develop suddenly and occur at the same time of year or when you visit a particular place, it’s possible you’re actually experiencing allergies. Although colds and allergies share some of the same symptoms, they have different causes and respond to different treatments.
While sneezing, congestion and a runny nose are typical with both ailments, other signs and symptoms can vary:
- Cough — Common with a cold, sometimes occurs with an allergy
- General aches and pains — May occur with a cold, never with an allergy
- Fatigue — Sometimes occurs with a cold or with an allergy
- Sore throat — Common with a cold, sometimes occurs with an allergy
- Fever — Rarely occurs with a cold, never with an allergy
Another difference may be the duration of symptoms. A cold generally lasts three to 10 days, although some last several weeks. Allergy symptoms persist while you’re exposed to a trigger (allergen), such as pollen or pet dander. Seasonal allergies may last several weeks to months.
Both colds and allergies can usually be managed with a combination of self-care and nonprescription medications. Talk to your doctor about other treatment options or allergy testing if your symptoms are particularly bothersome or if they persist despite treatment.
Practical tips for everyday life at Mayo Clinic Health Letter.