Is it a Cold or Allergies? Here’s How to Tell

This time of year, sniffles are practically a way of life. Cold temperatures and energy-draining schedules can get the best of us, and we may end up feeling under the weather. But how do you tell if it’s a cold or allergies? Find out below.

Learn to distinguish between symptoms of allergies and those of a cold.

What are allergies?

Allergies are an overreaction in the immune system to particles that are otherwise harmless. For some people, their bodies react to mold spores, dust mites, or pet dander as if they are pathogens. Symptoms like itchy eyes, a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing are typical; sometimes, sufferers will experience headaches and sinus pressure, too. Indoor allergies are common this time of year because, of course, people typically spend more time indoors.

Do these symptoms sound familiar? They should. Many of them are the same ones you’d experience with a cold. So, how do you tell the difference? Here are a few hints:

Additional symptoms

Colds and viruses can have symptoms that don’t match up with allergies. Aches and fevers, for example, typically indicate a viral infection.


Do you feel terrible at first but then notice a gradual reduction in symptoms? It’s probably a cold. On the other hand, does the degree of your symptoms tend to stay the same no matter how many days have passed? Sounds like it could be allergies!

Problems with Diagnosis

This time of year, doctors may be more likely to diagnose cold or flu because of the prevalence of both throughout the winter season. Provide your doctor with details about your symptoms and how long they’ve lasted for a clear diagnosis. Additionally, you can visit any one of our urgent cares for a quality review of your symptoms or a second opinion.

If You Suspect Indoor Allergies

Fortunately, you can mitigate indoor allergy symptoms through limiting your exposure to potential allergens and keeping your house tidy. Vacuuming frequently, washing your bedding in hot water, and removing any visible mildew or mold are easy ways to tamp down symptoms, says the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. You also can invest in an air filter or try a simple saline spray.

When to Visit a Doctor

Our urgent care clinics can provide you with a treatment plan for allergies. From prescription nasal sprays to allergy testing, we are here to help.