What are the Differences Between Colds and Allergies?

an ear nose and throat specialist standing in a medical office

If you have been coughing, sneezing, and your eyes have been feeling itchy, you might be experiencing the signs of a cold or allergies. Often, distinguishing between the two is not easy and can be the source of worries. 

If you don’t know what the best course of action is to take, getting in touch with a trusted ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) can help you find the best solution. However, if you are affected by symptoms that have caused you to feel weak, have a runny nose and experience itchy eyes, it is worth looking at whether these are more likely to relate to colds or allergies.

But what are the main difference between these two conditions?

What are colds?

Colds are known as common colds since they are a high-frequency condition that affects each adult two to three times a year. They are generally caused by different types of viruses, and the symptoms of this condition can vary greatly – depending on severely you are affected. 

Unlike allergies, they can affect people at any time of the year, but they do share some symptoms with allergies

A cold will last for around ten days but, depending on how healthy your immune system, they can carry on for up to three weeks. The best treatments for colds are pain relievers, rest and decongestants. Most cold medicines are available as over-the-counter products. 

What are the symptoms of colds?

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Fever 
  • It lasts between seven and 10 days
  • Fever 

If you have noticed your cold lasting for over two weeks, it would likely have caused other serious infections. Therefore, checking in with ENT doctors is a must. 

Keep in mind that if you are prone to allergies, you are more likely to catch a cold in the same period because allergies tend to put an extra strain on the immune system, which, if weakened, is more prone to the attack of viruses.

What are allergies?

Allergies are a condition that affects over 50 million Americans each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

While viruses trigger colds, seasonal allergies are a visible response of your immune system trying to fight allergies. These allergens often include dust mites, seasonal trees and grass pollens.

Indeed, when your body experiences an adverse reaction to certain substances, it releases histamines to prevent the allergen from harming the body. These substances, called histamines, are those responsible for the symptoms you might experience.

Unlike colds, seasonal allergies won’t follow a precise course, and they can last up to several weeks – until the allergen is no longer present in the environment. 

Common treatments for seasonal allergies include antihistamines and, depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, you might opt for prescription or over-the-counter products. Avoiding exposure to allergens and using nasal sprays can also be efficient methods to fight allergies.

What are the symptoms of allergies?

  • Cough and sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny and stuffy nose (but the mucus stays clear)

How to tell if you are experiencing a cold or an allergy

Certain hints can help you distinguish a cold from allergies:

  • Your mucus: If it is clear and watery, you are likely to have allergies. If it is thick and discolored, it might be due to a cold.
  • Itchy and artery eyes are a sign of allergies
  • If your symptoms don’t improve, you are likely to be dealing with allergies
  • A runny nose caused by a cold won’t last over seven and 10 days. Allergies can last weeks.
  • If you experience symptoms only in certain situations or at a certain time of the year, it is likely to be allergies. For reference, colds are common in winter and fall, while allergies have a higher incidence rate in spring.

How can an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) help?

If you have been feeling unwell and unsure whether the symptoms you are experiencing are telltale signs of a cold or allergy, getting in touch with an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) can put your mind at rest. ENT doctors can also help you identify the right solutions and treatments for your condition, depending on whether this is caused by allergies or colds. 

You can learn more about what an ENT can do for you by getting in touch with Vero ENT Associates at 772-563-0015.