Is it a Cold or Allergies

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



Occurrence of symptoms:

Symptoms often appear one at a time: first sneezing, then a runny nose, then congestion.

Symptoms occur all at once.

Duration of symptoms:

Generally last from seven to 10 days.

Continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergy-causing agent (allergen).


Often a yellowish nasal discharge, due to an infection.

Generally a clear, thin, watery discharge.


Less common than with allergies.

More common than with colds, especially when sneezing occurs two or three times in a row.

Time of year:

More common during winter.

More common in spring through fall, when plants are pollinating.


May be accompanied by a fever.

Not usually associated with a fever.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Can a test tell me which plant (or mold) is causing my allergy?
  • Can my allergy be cured?
  • Are there medications I can take?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make to relieve my symptoms?

Did You Know?

  • Hay fever is another name for fall allergies.
  • Molds can also cause allergy symptoms when they release tiny reproductive cells, called spores.
  • Tree pollen allergies strike in late winter to early spring, grass allergies can strike from spring through summer, and ragweed (which causes "hay fever") typically strikes in the fall.
  • An allergen is a substance that your body perceives as dangerous, which causes an allergic reaction.
  • An antihistamine is a medication that prevents congestion, sneezing and itchy, runny nose by blocking histamine (a substance released by your body's immune system after being exposed to an allergen.
  • A decongestant is a medication that shrinks swollen nasal tissues to relieve symptoms of nasal swelling, congestion and mucus secretion.

Know Your Numbers

  • 35 million- that's the number of people with allergic rhinitis, another name for seasonal allergies, according to NIAID
  • Most people develop hay fever before age 30.
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