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How to tell the difference between a cold and an allergy

Health By Lolita Bunde
Allergies are more common and are triggered by almost anything (Shutterstock)

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an adult should expect to have at least 2-3 colds a year? For children, even more times.

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However, most people can’t still tell the difference between an allergy and a cold. Allergies are more common and are triggered by almost anything. You could be having an allergy even now.

Although some of the signs and symptoms of both are borderline the same and can even get similar prescriptions, a cold is very much different from an allergy.

Here is how you can tell the difference:


A a cold doesn’t just attack you from nowhere or instantly, it will take a day or two to develop into a full blown cold. You will start to feel your nose itch, your eyes get watery, your throat will get sore and you might develop a fever.

However, for an allergy, in most cases you will find your nose running, your eyes watering and you are constantly sneezing without a clear reason. Allergies are mainly triggered and the result is instant. Some triggers include: cold weather, dust, pollens or even perfumes.

Still under duration, a cold will take one or two weeks to taper off depending on the kind of medication you are on or how hard it hit you. While for allergies, it will only last for as long as the allergen is in the air.

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An allergy is not contagious whereas a cold is (Shutterstock)

Predictable times

When it comes to allergies, they are very predictable. You will notice every time it is cold your nose will be running or your eyes watering because of too much dust or sneezing because of a certain smell you can’t stand.

For allergies it will happen almost on cue every time you are around trigger allergens, and you can even prepare or protect yourself from exposure.

However colds are less predictable, they can occur anytime of the year for whatever reason. All you have to do is strap up and be ready to deal with it as it comes.


This is one of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a cold and an allergy, but by the time you realize it’s a cold it would probably be too late and you would have caught it.

For a cold it is contagious, you are likely to catch a cold and transmit it to your colleague at work and all your household members will be down by it too.

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When you have a cold it is advisable to self-isolate in order to give your cold time to clear. However for an allergy, it is not contagious.

It only affects one person at a time because it is their bodies hyper reacting to simple things such as dust or perfume smells as germs.

Even though colds are contagious and probably more dangerous than allergies they shouldn’t last more than two weeks. If a cold goes for more than two weeks, there could be an underlying issue that needs medical attention. However, allergies can go for even a month, depending on what is triggering it.

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