What Is The Difference Between A Cold Or Allergies?


It is common to confuse allergies for colds or the other way around. Stuffiness, runny nose, and coughing are all symptoms of both situations. Although they are similar in numerous ways, allergies and colds are different. Besides having distinct causes, subtle differences in signs and symptoms, as well as how they manifest, can help to differentiate between the two.

What Is a Cold?

The cold or common cold is a viral-caused disease of the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, throat, and nose). And the most common virus that causes cold is rhinovirus; however, numerous viruses, such as respiratory syncytial and adenovirus, can cause a cold. All these are strains of the coronavirus. 

The spread of a cold mostly occurs through air droplet when an individual with the virus sneezes or cough. Also, if you hold the same object, like a doorknob handled by a person with the virus, you’ll contact the virus. This occurs when you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after handling such materials. 

After contracting this virus, it will infect and multiply in the respiratory tracks and begin the inflammatory processes that appear as symptoms. Usually, the symptoms develop after one to four days of contracting the virus. However, this depends on your level of an immune response. While most colds will disappear in a week or less, the symptoms, such as cough or runny nose, may remain for two weeks or more. 

Fortunately, if you’ve been exposed to a particular virus, your immune system will develop specific immunity. Unfortunately, you have not come into contact with many viruses, so you are at risk of contacting any of them at any time. For that reason, children contract colds several times a year, and adults about twice a year.  

What Are Allergies?

Allergies usually happen after your immune response mistakenly attacks allergens such as pollen or dust that are not harmful. This implies that your immune system mistakes them for harmful substances. 

Whenever this occurs, histamines and other substances are released into your bloodstream. The release of these chemicals triggers allergy signs and symptoms.

Hay fever (Seasonal allergic rhinitis) is among the most frequent type of allergy. It is frequently associated with allergic conjunctivitis, which induces eye symptoms. In addition, seasonal allergies may be the cause of your asthma.



  • Dry cough
  • Clear mucus, runny nose
  • Itchy throat, nose, or eyes
  • The symptoms occur all at the same time and can persist for months


  • Productive cough (not always productive, though)
  • Green or yellow mucus, runny nose
  • Fever
  • The symptoms are progressive, one at a time, and usually last ten days or less. 


A diagnosis is crucial to treating any of the two disease conditions. And it is only at the stage of diagnosis your healthcare provider can distinguish which of the two you are affected with. Therefore, a detailed history of your signs and symptoms will usually be taken, and a physical examination will be conducted when necessary. 

Your healthcare provider may also see vital signs and check your nose and ear—all in his bid to find substantial evidence to support a potential cause.