Posted on Feb 27, 2015 12:00pm PST

Everyone around you seems to be getting sick; despite your best efforts at prevention, you start to come down with the sniffles, too.

Weeks go by, and while your coworkers are back to their healthy selves, you’re still nursing a terrible case of what you thought was the common cold.

While some colds can last anywhere from a few days to a week, many patients mistake allergy symptoms for long-standing colds. To better understand whether you’re suffering from allergies or a cold, learn the difference between the causes and symptoms.

What Causes a Cold?

The common cold can be caused by a range of viruses. In fact, over one billion reported cases of the common cold occur each year in the United States alone!

If you are exposed to a cold virus, your body’s immune system will begin to attack it, leaving you to suffer from a host of unpleasant symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, congestion, and more.

What Are Allergies?

Unlike a cold, allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to harmless substances, such as pet dander or dust, as if they were germs. Since both cold and allergy symptoms are the result of the immune system’s response to harmful substances, they have similar characteristics.

The Key Differences Between Colds and Allergies

While it can be difficult to distinguish between cold and allergy symptoms, there are a few key differences between the two.

  • Colds are finite. Colds typically last anywhere between 3-14 days. Allergy symptoms can last up anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
  • Cold symptoms develop over time. With a cold, you may start with a scratchy throat, and develop congestion or fever over the next few days. Allergy symptoms typically present themselves as soon as the immune system is exposed to an allergen.
  • Colds exhibit certain symptoms that don’t come with allergies. While allergies may seem similar to a cold, you can only develop a fever and aches or pains with a cold. In addition, allergies are rarely (if ever) accompanied by discolored mucus. This can become confusing because allergies sometimes lead to sinus infections, which produce cold-like symptoms, including discolored mucus and headaches.

Get Tested for Allergies at CAA Georgia

If you suspect that the never-ending cold you’ve caught every spring or fall is actually caused by allergies, visit the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia. We offer allergy testing at each of our convenient Atlanta area locations, and treat specialize in allergy shots and drops.

Call us at 404-994-4500 to request an appointment or explore our website to learn more.