Infographic is from healthfeed.uofuhealth.org

When the warm weather comes, most people spend more of their time outdoors. This is also the time that allergies act up the most. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell if you are coming down with a cold or if your allergies are acting up. This can leave you wondering if you should be lying in bed with a bowl of chicken soup or asking your doctor to prescribe a different allergy medication. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can distinguish between the two.

Check Your Mucus

The first stage of a cold and allergies both produce a thin, watery mucus, which can make it difficult to determine between the two. If you notice that after a couple of days that the color of your mucus has changed and it has gotten thicker, and it is not green or yellow, chances are you have a cold.

Are Your Eyes Itchy?

Itching is one of the common symptoms of allergies. If you have itchy, watery eyes, an itchy throat, or even itchy ears and an itchy face, likely means that you have allergies. This is the best way to tell the difference. However, viral conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, can also be a symptom of a cold. If you are unsure which is causing your itchy eyes, you should visit a doctor. If not, an antihistamine should help with the itching until the allergy attack subsides.

Are You Having Aches and Pains?

If you are having pain in your head or face, it is likely due to allergies. If you are suffering from aches and pains throughout your entire body, you likely have a cold. Body aches cannot be caused by a typical allergy. If you have an itchy throat, allergies are likely the culprit. If you have a sore throat, you probably have a cold.

How Fast Did the Symptoms Hit?

If your symptoms came on suddenly without any warning, you most likely have allergies. If your symptoms came on gradually, you likely have a cold. Allergies are known to hit you full force all at once. The symptoms of a common cold start off minor and get worse and worse as the infection progresses. You might have a runny nose the first day, and a cold and sore throat the next.

How Long Have You Been Sick?

A common cold often lasts for just a few days to a week. The symptoms of an allergic reaction will last as long as you are exposed to the allergen. This can be just a few hours or for weeks at a time.

When and Where are Your Allergies Acting Up?

The time of year that you are experiencing the symptoms can help you determine if you have a cold or an allergic reaction. Allergies often occur during the spring and summer, and colds often occur during the winter. Keep in mind that you can catch a cold in the summer. If you notice that your symptoms are worse when you are at work or at a friend’s house, you are likely allergic to something in that particular environment.

If you are unsure if you are suffering from a cold or an allergic reaction, you will not know what type of medication to take and how to take care of yourself. If you think you have a cold, you will stay away from others. If it was just allergies, this would have been for nothing. The better idea you have of what is causing the symptoms, the better idea you will have of how to treat it.


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