The Difference Between Common Cold & Allergies

When you develop a stuffy nose or irritating cough, you might assume it is caused by the common cold and nothing more. But how do you know these symptoms weren’t caused by allergies? It is never too late for you to start suffering from allergies.


An allergy is a foreign protein substance that is commonly referred to as an allergen. When you inhale this foreign protein substance into your body, your immune system may overact if it does not recognize the substance. These substances can also get into your body by touching or eating them too.

The two most common allergens are dust and pollen. The immune system’s overreaction to these allergens will cause certain symptoms to occur, such as coughing, stuffy nose, wheezing, and itchy eyes. This is a result of histamine being released by the body in response to the overreaction in the immune system.

Common Cold

The cause of a common cold is not allergens, but rather a single virus strain. There are hundreds of virus strains on surfaces and floating in the air. If you become infected with a contagious virus, your immune system will respond by trying to attack it. During this attack, you will experience a number of side effects that come in the form of cold symptoms.

The most common symptoms include congestion, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing. It can take 1 to 2 weeks for the immune system to eliminate a virus. Once it does, those cold symptoms will go away. You will technically be immune to that particular virus strain, which means it can no longer make you sick. However, since there are hundreds of different strains in the air, any of them can make you sick again.

How to Tell the Difference

The symptoms are similar in each case. To tell whether you have a common cold or allergies, you must focus on how long you have the symptoms, and when you have the symptoms.

For instance, a common cold will last for no more than 2 weeks. You can get a cold at any time of the year. Allergies, on the other hand, usually infect people at a certain time of the year. This could be a time when pollen is in the air, and many people experience similar reactions. The duration of the symptoms will often be inconsistent too.

Posted in Seasonal.

Dr. Peter Mann