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Can You Tell the Difference Between Allergies and a Cold?

A woman sneeze into a tissue.
Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock.com

Those who deal with spring allergies are likely already dreading the upcoming warm weather (or are already dealing with it depending on where you live). This time of year isn’t just about allergies, there are also colds to cope with, but how can you tell the difference?

When it comes to how colds and allergies are different, it’s all about specific symptoms and the treatments you’ll use to banish them.

The biggest difference between colds and allergies is their causes. While colds are caused by viruses, allergies are triggered when our bodies overreact to allergens and our immune systems are triggered. But, of course, that’s not something you can discern for yourself. What you can compare are the symptoms.

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Stuffy or runny noses, tiredness, and sneezing are all overlapping symptoms, and that’s what makes telling colds and allergies apart so difficult. There are, however, a few cold symptoms that you will never (or at least rarely) experience with allergies. If you’re feeling sick and have body aches and pains, a fever, and a cough, you’re more likely to be experiencing a cold according to the Mayo Clinic.

Why does telling the difference matter? Because treatment is slightly different. For the most part, you’ll treat colds with rest, pain relievers, and decongestants, but for allergies, you might want to look to antihistamines as well.

Ultimately, the best way to tell the two illnesses apart is to speak with your doctor, and of course, consult with your doctor before trying any medicinal treatment methods. But if you’re not sure whether it’s allergies or a cold, there are ways to tell.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Editor In Chief of LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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