Is It a Cold or Allergies? 4 Ways to Tell the Difference

cold or allergies?Is there anything worse than a springtime cold? The running nose, the weeping eyes, the painful congestion. It all seems even worse when the weather is so nice out, too. It's like adding insult to injury. It can also be hard to determine if what you've got going on is actually a cold or if it's springtime allergies. Damn you, pollen! And also child who sneezed at me on the bus! 

Before you start mainlining chicken soup or taking Claritin like a boss, it's important to properly identify your symptoms. While there are no "real" cures for either source of woe, you'll be a whole lot more successful at treating your problem if it's the right problem in the first place! That sounds like a joke, but it isn't. These two are so similar in symptoms, it's no wonder people get all turned around. 


1.) Are you sore?

While both colds and allergies can cause mucus build-up, it's far more common for colds to cause pain. "The all-over ache you think of when you think 'cold,'" says Dr. Harry Townes, "that's the real key." When you've got allergies, you won't have the same sort of pain or soreness. Feeling sore, especially in your joints? That's one good way of figuring out that you've got something of a cold brewing. To bed with you! Push those fluids.

2.) Do you have a fever?

Dr. Townes also says that if you've got a fever, it's never allergies. So take your temperature if you're still on the fence about your symptoms. A fever, even a slight one, means you've got a cold or a virus. Whatever it is, it's not your usual run-of-the-mill allergies. 

3.) Is it lingering? 

This is a big one. If your 'cold' is hanging out for more than two weeks, your nose is still running, and your eyes itch, then what you've got is a cold. Try over-the-counter treatments, or talk to your doctor to find a plan of action that will help.

4.) Are you itchy?

While itchy eyes during a cold can happen due to dryness, all-over itchy skin and nose and eyes are a big indicator that you've got allergies -- especially if you've noticed more or less itching depending on whether or not you're at home or outside. 

Get out there and get well, be it cold or allergies! This is a beautiful time of year and you don't want feeling lousy to keep you stuck at home. 

How do you cope with allergies?

Image via © Science Photo Library/Corbis

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