Allergies vs. Colds: Knowing the Difference

It is expected for adults to have two to three colds a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whereas children generally experience several a year. Allergies, on the other hand, are far more common and, in fact, it is estimated that at least 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies. While the symptoms of allergies and colds might seem the same, they are actually vastly different and, being able to correctly identify what a person is suffering from can help ensure they receive the most effective treatment.

What Are the Differences?

If you are unsure if you are suffering from allergies or a cold, consider some of the following differences to help discern what you might be experiencing:

  • Itchy, watery eyes tend to be major indicators that the symptoms one is experiencing were caused by an allergy.
  • Fevers sometimes accompany severe colds, particularly in children. This is not a symptom of an allergy.
  • Sore throats can be an allergy symptom, but they are generally more common in colds.
  • Body aches are another common symptom of colds and are not associated with allergies.
  • Lastly, some allergy sufferers might also develop eczema, which is not a cold symptom.

The Duration of the Symptoms

Usually, there is a big difference in the amount of time the symptoms of colds and allergies last. Symptoms of colds often last anywhere from 7 to 10 days, while allergy symptoms can potentially last several weeks, according to the CDC.

Another telltale sign of allergies is the time of year during which they appear or the environment a person is in. For example, some individuals experience particularly bad allergy symptoms around animals. Being observant of when you experience your symptoms can help you when you explain what you are experiencing to your allergist.

The Similarities

The similarities that colds and allergies share can often make it difficult to figure out what you are suffering from. Below are some of the commonly shared symptoms that appear in both colds and allergies:

  • Runny nose
  • Congested nasal passages
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Post-nasal drip

Ask yourself the following questions to better understand if you are suffering from an allergy or a cold:

  • How soon did the symptoms appear? When symptoms suddenly appear out of the blue, this is generally a sign of allergies. Colds tend to develop over the course of a day or two.
  • How long have you had the symptoms? If you are experiencing a cold, its symptoms would likely taper off after a week or two. Allergies will last as long as the element that is causing them is still in the air and you are exposed to it.
  • Do your symptoms occur at predictable times? If every time you are around a cat, you get uncomfortable and start sneezing or experiencing watery and itchy eyes, these are obviously allergies you are experiencing. If, every fall, you sneeze, cough, and have a congested nose, chances are that it is a seasonal allergy and not a cold.
  • Do your symptoms include itchy, watery eyes or eczema? There are certain symptoms that accompany allergies more frequently than colds.

Different Treatments

Some over-the-counter medications can target both cold and allergy symptoms, but there are so many differences in how both of these conditions are treated that it is generally best to be treated for the specific condition you are suffering from. Treatment for colds generally involves resting, staying hydrated, and using some over-the-counter medications to alleviate some symptoms.

Treatments for allergies often involve preventative measures. This is because the allergens that trigger a person’s symptoms can be identified, making it easier to avoid the symptoms through medications, such as antihistamines, which block the effects of histamine, the compound that causes one’s allergy symptoms. Other treatment options for allergies include shots and nasal steroid sprays.

Allergy Treatment Services in Atlanta

If you suffer from allergies, now is the time to seek the treatment you deserve, so you can put a stop to these symptoms. At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, we provide comprehensive treatments for asthma, allergies, and pulmonary conditions at our ten convenient locations in the greater Atlanta area. Get the relief you need today.

Call the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia today at (404) 994-3574 to learn more about how we can help you.

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