Symptoms of allergies and colds can be similar, but here’s how to tell the difference:

  • Occurrence of symptoms:
    Both allergies and colds cause symptoms of sneezing, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, fatigue, and headaches. However, colds often cause symptoms one at a time: first sneezing, then a runny nose, and then congestion. Allergies can cause these symptoms all at once and is associated most times with itchiness.

  • Duration of Symptoms:
    Cold symptoms generally last from seven to 10 days, whereas allergy symptoms continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergy-causing agent. Allergy symptoms may subside soon after elimination of allergen exposure.

  • Mucus Discharge:
    Colds may cause yellowish nasal discharge, suggesting an infectious cause. Allergies generally cause clear, thin, watery mucus discharge.

  • Sneezing:
    Sneezing is a more common allergy symptom, especially when sneezing occurs two or three times in a row.

  • Time of Year:
    Colds are more common during the winter months, whereas allergies are more common in the spring through the fall, when plants are pollinating.

  • Presence of a Fever:
    Colds may be accompanied by a fever, but allergies are not usually associated with a fever.