Cold vs Allergies: Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Although cold and allergies may share some of the same symptoms, they are quite different diseases. If you tend to get colds that develop suddenly and occur at the same time each year, it is possible that you actually have seasonal allergies. More about the differences between the two are mentioned below.

Cold vs Allergies

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Cold Vs Allergies: Basic Differences

Cold is caused by viruses and lasts from 3 to 14 days. It does not occur at regular intervals. However, allergies are immune system responses that are triggered by exposure to allergens like seasonal grass pollen, or tree. Allergies last as long as one is exposed to the allergen and they tend to occur at regular intervals.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On The Cause

There are some important differences between cold and allergies based on their causes. The cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract and generally affects the nose. There are more than 200 virus strains implicated in the cause of common cold; however, the most common cause is the Rhinovirus. However, allergic reactions are the response of immune system to certain allergens, which could be anything from food, to things in the environment, such as mold, pollen, dust motes, animal dander, etc.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On The Onset Of Symptoms:

In case of cold, symptoms take a few days to appear after getting infected with the cold virus. However, in case of allergies, symptoms may begin immediately after contact with the allergens or the allergy triggers.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On Symptoms

Common symptoms of cold are cough, sore throat, runny nose with yellow mucus, stuffy nose, sneezing etc. There are also some less common symptoms like aches, fatigue and an occasional fever. These symptoms of cold take a few days to appear after the infection with the cold virus. However, common symptoms of allergies are itchy and watery eyes, runny nose with clear mucus, sneezing and stuffy nose. There are also some less common symptoms of allergies which include a sore throat, cough and fatigue. Symptoms in case of allergies can begin immediately after the exposure to the allergy triggers.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On The Time It Happens

The common cold, occurs most often in cold weather. However, allergies may occur at any time of the year, but the appearance of most common allergens such as pollen is seasonal, usually during the spring.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On The Duration It Lasts

Cold lasts for 3 days to 14 days. However, an allergy can last from days to months, as long as you are in contact with the allergy trigger or the allergen.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On Color Of The Nasal Discharge

There are also differences between cold and allergy symptoms based on the color of the nasal discharge. In case of a cold virus infection, there is a green or yellow mucus. However, in case of seasonal allergies, there is a clear nasal secretion. However, you must note it down that sometimes allergy sufferers may develop sinus infections, which can result in a yellow nasal discharge.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On The Treatments

Cold treatments include Antihistamines and decongestants. Additionally, you can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol or Advil, so as to help relieve aches and pains. There are many OTC medicines that combine antihistamines, decongestants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Other treatments for cold include, take more of rests, drinking plenty of water and fluids, etc.

Treatments for allergies include antihistamines, decongestants etc. Antihistamines block histamine, which is a substance causing allergy symptoms. Decongestants, reduce the swelling in the nasal mucus membranes. Nasal steroids may be required for reducing swelling in the nasal passage in more severe allergies. Some allergy sufferers may require allergy shots, which means getting injected with small amounts of the allergen, so as to become tolerant to it. Over-the-counter medicines or antihistamines like Allegra and Claritin are the most common treatments for allergy symptoms.

Cold Vs Allergies: Differences Based On Prevention

Preventing a cold involves preventing the virus that causes cold from getting into the system. This can be done by keeping a distance from people who are already affected by cold and by washing hands frequently.

Preventing allergies, generally only means avoiding the allergy triggers or the allergens causing allergies. Mold, pollen, dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, etc. are some of the most common allergens that you need to avoid.


So, above we talked about some of the differences between the cold and allergies. The most important difference between the two is that colds usually do not last longer than two weeks. So, in case your cold symptoms lasts longer then do consult your doctor, as these may be the allergy symptoms or may be signs of some other problem.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 23, 2018

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