Allergies or a Cold?

Got a cold? Or is it allergies. Sometimes it can be tough to differentiate.

Allergies or Cold

Here are a couple distinguishing factors for discerning between the two:

1. Symptoms. Symptoms of cold and allergy include:

  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • A runny or stuffed-up nose

Allergies can have additional symptoms including sneezing and itchy eyes which are not as common with colds. Allergies can also cause eczema, hives, or conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Colds may occasionally cause fever and body aches. These are unique to colds and not common to allergies.

2. Duration. It is rare for a cold to last more than a week unless it has morphed into some kind of an infection such as a sinus infection. Allergies may last for weeks or even months on end.

Cause and Treatment

Colds are a type of virus. There are nearly 100 different viruses that lead to cold symptoms. There is no treatment, but you can take measures to make yourself feel more comfortable while the cold runs its course. You may try decongestants or multi-symptom cold medications. You may also run a humidifier, use saline nasal sprays, and stay hydrated and rested.

Allergies are a result of your immune system reacting to allergens in your environment including pet dander, mold, dust, and pollens. Since these allergens are not inherently dangerous or harmful, your body should just ignore them. But when you have allergies, the immune system perceives these elements as threats and releases chemicals in the body to “fight them off.” These chemicals are responsible for a whole host of miserable allergy symptoms—hay fever, asthma, coughing, eczema, itchy eyes, etc.

Unlike colds, there is a treatment for allergies. Talk to your physician to see if they offer an allergy test program. An allergy test can help reveal what you are allergic to. Medications may help if your allergies are short-term and mild. For more consequential allergies, your doctor may prescribe sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops) or subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy drops). Both can help teach your body to react normally to allergens in the environment so the allergy cycle stops. Talk to you doctor for more specific questions about the cost of allergy drops vs. allergy shots. If you have a child, allergy drops are often a safer choice for kids allergy treatment.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.