Allergies or Cold: The Big Differences



The grass is starting to come up. The landscape is starting to turn green again. Suddenly, your eyes become itchy, your throat is sore, and you’re sneezing regularly, constantly going for the tissues. Or maybe the leaves are turning, and the weather outside is getting cooler, and you’re experiencing symptoms of coughing, scratchy throat, puffy eyes, and a runny nose. Is is a cold? Or do you have a spring or fall seasonal allergy?

Most people find cold and allergy symptoms can be very similar. This can be frustrating trying to figure out the right steps to take to treat their condition.

Here is an extremely handy chart to have that outlines the major differences between allergies vs a cold:



Duration or Length

3-14 days

Will continue as long as you are exposed to the allergen (pollen, mold, etc)

Time of Year

Most often occurs in the winter months, but could be any time

Can occur any time of year, but most common in the spring through autumn for most outdoor allergens

Occurrence of symptoms

Will appear within a few days after infection with the virus, often causing symptoms to come 1 at a time

Symptoms begin immediately after exposure to the allergen, all symptoms will come at once

Appearance of Mucus

Commonly yellowish in tint, due to an infection

Generally clear and runny

Coughing Frequency



Aches and pains




May be accompanied by fever

Extremely rare

Itchy, watery eyes


More common, and associated with multiple sneezes at a time


As you can see, colds can last anywhere between 3 and 14 days. Past 2 weeks and your symptoms are almost certain not being caused by any sort of virus. Allergies are caused by allergens (see article Allergies or cold: what are they?), and as such allergy symptoms will persist until the allergen or allergy is removed. Also, time of year can be a factor. If your symptoms occur during winter, it’s likely you have a cold. Many people also look to the color of tissues after blowing your nose. A yellow tint to your mucus may suggest some sort of infection. Fever rarely accompanies an allergy, where it can be common in colds (although it will generally be under 100.9F). Sneezing is also more frequent and consistent with allergies than colds.

So, now that you know what you have, keep reading to find out the most effective ways to treat Allergies or Cold.

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