SRx Health

The Common Cold vs. Seasonal Allergies: How to Tell the Difference

Find out why your nose is stuffy and what you can do about it.

It’s that particularly tricky time of year again: cold and flu season is drawing to a close but isn’t quite over, and the first springtime pollen is beginning to fall. We’re in that overlap between cold season and allergy season when every sneeze or stuffy nose makes you question which one is the culprit.

So, how do you know if your sniffles are coming from a cold or seasonal allergies? They can mimic each other, but there are a few tricks to figure out which is which.

Table of Contents

1. Symptoms of a Cold vs. Seasonal Allergies

2. Timing of a Cold vs. Seasonal Allergies

3. How to Know for Certain If You Have a Cold or Seasonal Allergies

Symptoms of a Cold vs. Seasonal Allergies

Colds and seasonal allergies or hay fever have their core symptoms in common. Both of them can cause:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus congestion

They aren’t identical, though. There are a few symptoms that usually point in one direction or the other:

  • A cough is more likely to come from a cold than allergies
  • Allergies don’t cause body aches, but a cold may
  • Itchy eyes are common with allergies but are rarely a symptom of a cold
  • If you have a sore throat, it’s more likely to be a cold than allergies
  • Allergies don’t cause a fever, but a cold may

Timing of a Cold vs. Seasonal Allergies

Along with assessing your symptoms, you could tell the difference between a cold or seasonal allergies based on the timing. If you feel ill in the same way around the same time every year, there’s a good chance you have seasonal allergies. When you’re feeling sick, check in with the people you’ve been around lately, too. If one or more of them also has symptoms, you likely have a cold.

You also want to pay attention to how long your symptoms last. The common cold usually lasts about 5-7 days, although this can vary from person to person. Seasonal allergies, on the other hand, tend to last at least a few weeks, depending on what allergens are triggering you and the cycle of those allergens in your area.

Many weather tracking apps report the pollen count for various types of pollen in your area, too. If you think you may have seasonal allergies, try keeping track of the days when your symptoms are worst and comparing them to the days with the highest pollen counts according to your weather tracker. If they seem to coincide, you probably have allergies.

How to Know for Certain If You Have a Cold or Seasonal Allergies

All of the tricks and tips above can tell you whether your symptoms are most likely from a cold or seasonal allergies, but the only way to know for sure is by talking to your doctor. Your care team at SRx can help you determine why you aren’t feeling your best and may order an allergy test to find out if allergens are the cause (and what allergens are triggering you).

Whether you have a cold or allergies, we’ll be able to find the best way to treat your symptoms so you can enjoy the springtime. Book an appointment at SRx today.

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