Do I Have a Cold, or is it Allergies?
Your head is all bunged up and you can’t stop sneezing. It’s been going on for a few days now and you’re miserable, but is it allergies or a cold?
Head Cold Vs. Allergies
Colds and allergies both provoke responses from your immune system, but have different causes. Colds are caused by contracting a virus whereas allergies are an immune system response to substances it views as allergens. Viruses are contagious but allergies are not.
When you have a cold, your immune system launches a defence against the virus that results in coughs, sneezes, and a stuffy nose. Your symptoms should go away within a few days to a couple of weeks.
Allergies are how your immune system responds to something harmless it perceives as a threat. This could be pollen, pet dander, dust, or pollution. Your body fights against these substances by releasing chemicals like histamine that can result in rashes, sneezing, coughing, congestion, and inflammation in your airways and nose.
Since the symptoms of allergies and colds can overlap, you may not be able to tell which condition you have. It is most likely to be allergies if:
- You have watery or clear mucus
- You have itching eyes
- Your symptoms remain consistent and don’t wane
- You only experience symptoms after situational triggers like being around animals or when the season changes
You may have a cold if:
- You have a fever or body aches
- Your mucus is thick and discoloured
- Your symptoms increase or decrease as the virus progresses
- The symptoms go away within two weeks
Colds don’t have a cure so most people are advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and to take over the counter medications like paracetamol to reduce the symptoms.
Allergies also don’t have a cure, but can be effectively managed with a wide range of medications and by taking preventative measures.
- Limit exposure to pets and animals you are allergic to
- Clean your home often to prevent mould and dust
- Using allergy proof bedding
- Being careful about what you eat if you have food allergies
- Staying indoors during high pollen seasons or when pollution is high
- Taking allergy medication or carrying it with you