Is it a cold or allergies?

Runny nose, cough, headache, they are all symptoms of both the common cold and allergies. How do you know which one you have so that you can treat it properly?

A cold is a virus that your immune system attacks when it enters your body. The symptoms of a cold are the effects of the virus being destroyed. Colds can last a couple of weeks and are highly contagious. You can catch a cold from a handshake, touching a surface that has germs or by a cough or sneeze from an infected person.

An allergy is an overactive immune response. Your body mistakenly attacks harmless matters, such as pollen and animal dander, thinking these are germs; your body then reacts as if you had a cold. You cannot catch an allergy from someone else, they are not contagious.

Match your symptoms up below to find out if you have a cold or allergies.

Symptoms Cold Allergy
Cough Usually Sometimes
Body aches Sometimes Never
Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy or watery eyes Rarely Usually
Sneezing Usually Usually
Runny nose Usually Usually
Stuffy nose Usually Usually
Fever Rarely Never
Headache Sometimes Sometimes
Chest discomfort Sometimes Rarely


Since a cold is a virus, there is no medication to make it go away. But, there are some home remedies you can try to help relieve some of your symptoms.

To treat allergies talk to your doctor about medication options.


Prevention for a cold is simple – wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. Use soap and warm water to wash your hands and wash for at least 15 seconds. Don't touch your mouth, nose or eyes, and avoid those who have a cold.

The only way to prevent allergies is to stay away from the things you are allergic to. This is not always possible, so be sure to talk to your doctor if your allergies affect your everyday activities.