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Seasonal Allergies vs. the Common Cold

Doctor On Demand Blog

Coughing, sneezing, or runny nose? Are you sick or is it your allergies again? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between seasonal allergies (also known as “hay fever”) and a common cold. If your symptoms are similar to the checklist below, then your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal allergies:

  1. Allergies are itchy. While the common cold can cause a temporary itching sensation in the nose or eyes, allergies are much more likely to do so.
  2. Allergies do not cause a fever. Although you might get a low-grade fever with an infection such as the common cold, allergies do not usually cause fevers.
  3. Lack of achiness. Seasonal allergy symptoms tend to be localized to the eyes, nose, and lungs. If you are experiencing muscle or joint aches, allergies are less likely.
  4. Timing and surroundings. If people at home or work are also sick, it’s more likely to be a cold. If you begin to have symptoms of congestion and sneezing each time you are outdoors, chances are it’s an allergy.
  5. Duration of symptoms. The symptoms of a common cold will usually get better in 7–10 days, if you are experiencing symptoms for longer this could be due to allergies or a different type of infection. It’s important to talk to a doctor if your symptoms last longer than 7–10 days.
  6. The mucous debate. It was previously thought that the color of your mucus is telling — clear equals allergies and yellow or green equals an infection. However, this is not actually the case. Allergies can cause colored mucus and infection can create clear mucus. If the color of your mucus changes, i.e. goes from clear to green, this may be suggestive of an infection.

If you aren’t sure whether you are suffering from allergies or an infection, check with your Doctor On Demand physician. It is possible that you are suffering from an allergy and an infection at the same time.

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