Is it Allergies or a Sickness?

Is it Allergies or a Sickness?

You wake up with a headache and congestion, maybe even a little sore throat. How do you know if it’s a cold settling in or if it’s just seasonal allergies attacking? Symptoms definitely overlap, but there are some ways to help determine what the issue is.

Cold are upper respiratory tract infections and are caused by viruses that are spread by touching an infected person or object or by breathing in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance (such as pollen, insects, grass, pet dander, or mold), and allergies typically run in the family. Both colds and allergies come with congestion or a runny nose, and you may feel tired or run down by both as well.


Colds and allergies both can create coughing. Colds often produce a cough that is phlegmy and wet. It usually is a hacking cough with a thicker mucus. Allergens on the other hand typically produce a cough that is a result of the post-nasal drip from your runny nose. Mucus would be thin and watery and make create a tickling sensation down your throat.

Body Aches

Allergies also rarely cause body aches, whereas body aches are common with colds. If you have body aches and pains, you probably have a cold, flu, or other infection. Sore throats are also common with colds, but not with allergies. The only time you may have a sore throat is from the irritation of your post-nasal drip or if we have to only breath through our mouths while our noses are clogged. A humidifier at night and lots of fluids are helpful for both colds and allergies.


Colds are often accompanied by a fever, but allergies should cause a rise in your body temperature. It is possible to have an allergy flare up at the same time you’re developing an infection, which makes diagnosis even trickier. Allergies don’t cause infections, however, sinus infections can be developed from the swelling and mucus getting trapped in the sinuses resulting in bacteria and viruses to grow.


Colds are often severe for about a week then they start to improve by about day 10. They should affect for a time then go away. Allergies will flare up at certain times of the year and last for several weeks or until the allergen has been removed. For those with allergies in the spring, they often struggle with their allergies for a couple months before they symptoms fade.


Allergies are often accompanied by itchy, watery eyes (and sometimes itchy nose and throat, too!). Rashes can sometime develop as well. A typical symptom of a cold is not itchy, watery eyes.


Good handwashing, avoiding other with infections, and keeping your immune system healthy are the best ways to prevent getting sick. If you have seasonal allergies, you will want to stick to a daily allergy pill until you know your irritant has cleared up. At the workplace, you may want to consider some cold medicine or allergy medicines in the break room. Employees should wash hands often and avoid coming into the office if they’re sick.
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