Common Cold or Allergies? What You Need to Know

July 24, 2018

Coughing and sneezing are no fun. You feel like you want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head, and stay put until it passes. The glances from coworkers when you sneeze or blow your nose make it even worse.

Because allergies and colds cause many of the same symptoms, it can be hard to determine which one is plaguing you. The National Institutes of Health has some information to help you manage your symptoms.

A cold comes from a virus. The symptoms will show up a few days after you come into contact with it. If you were recently around someone who had an upper respiratory infection, it’s a safe bet that you may have contracted a virus.

On the contrary, allergies can show up almost immediately after exposure to a trigger, such as pollen or pet dander. If your symptoms come on after you just finished mowing the lawn, allergies are probably to blame.

Some of the symptoms of allergies and colds overlap, such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing and fatigue. However, they do have their differences.

Allergies are often accompanied by itchy eyes and face, dark circles under your eyes and post-nasal drip, while colds usually cause sore throat, cloudy or discolored nasal discharge, fever and achiness.


There is some overlap in the time you can be affected by either of these ailments.

Generally, a cold can last from three to 14 days, but it shouldn’t last more than two weeks. If your symptoms persist, visit a doctor.

Allergy symptoms can last from days to months, depending on how long you’ve been exposed to the allergen.

Nursing a cold

There’s no cure for the common cold, but there are ways to alleviate your symptoms.

Your local pharmacy has a variety of over-the-counter medications such as cough syrup, decongestants, pain relievers and cold relief. Consult your doctor about any kind of medication before you take it.

Non-medicinal home remedies that may help ease your discomfort include humidifiers, gargling with salt water, soup or broth, and rest.

Treating allergies

You have some options when it comes to treating allergies with medication, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Most allergy medicine works by blocking your body’s histamine reactions that result from contact with an allergen.

A common side effect of these medications is drowsiness. You can combat this by taking the medicine at night or with daytime formula that won’t make you drowsy.

An ounce of prevention

What can you do to lessen the likelihood that you’ll get a cold or experience allergies?

Cold viruses are spread very easily from person to person. While it’s nearly impossible to be completely protected, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. These areas are most susceptible to germ invasions.

It’s a little bit trickier with allergies.

The best thing you can do is limit your exposure to the allergens that bother you. Unfortunately, that may mean staying indoors when you’d rather be outside.

There are over-the-counter medications that can alleviate your symptoms without drowsiness. They usually need to be taken on a daily basis in order to get the maximum benefits.

Colds, allergies and you

Knowing the difference between a cold or allergies is important, but you should always consult your physician before starting any treatment plan.

Make sure you have the right insurance coverage for all your health needs. UROne Benefits™ is here to help you find the coverage you need at the price you can afford. Call us at 800-722-7331.