Difference between Cold and Allergies

Cold and allergies are both two of the common conditions that affects children and adults. Although the symptoms of both of these can be similar, they have different causes and vary in their type and duration they last for. And identifying the symptoms of an individual allows us to find the correct treatment to treat it.

What is Common Cold?

Cold or common cold is known as a viral infection of one’s nose and throat. Although it might not feel that way it is generally harmless and it is caused due to many type of viruses. On an average a healthy individual can expect to have about two or three colds in a year. In case of younger children and infants, they may have even more frequent colds.

The recovery period for a common cold is generally a week to 10 days and the symptoms of cold last longer in people who smoke. Medical attention is not necessarily needed for a common cold but if the symptoms don’t improve or get worse it is advisable to see a doctor.

The symptoms of a common cold appear after one to three days after being exposed to a cold causing virus and some of these symptoms that different from person to person are −

  • Sneezing

  • Cough

  • Congestion

  • Low fever

  • Headaches or slight body aches or feeling unwell

  • Sore throat

  • Stuffy or runny nose

Generally, in an individual with common cold the discharge from his nose may he clear at the first and then becomes thicker and green or yellow in colour as it cold gets worse. And this doesn’t indicate a bacterial infection.

What are Allergies?

When your immune system reacts to a foreign substance around you like bee venom or pet dander, pollen or any kind of food that is when allergies occur in an individual. Our immune system produces certain substances called antibodies and when one has allergies the immune system tends to make antibodies that identifies that particular allergen as harmful although it isn’t. The immune systems reaction can inflame your skin, airways, digestive system and sinuses when your body comes in contact with an allergen.

The level of severity of an allergy varies from person to person and it can range from a minor irritation to a potentially life threatening emergency called as anaphylaxis. Although most allergies cannot be cured, there are treatments available to help relieve your allergy symptoms.

The symptoms of allergy depend on the substance involved and it can affect one’s airways, nasal passage, skin and digestive system. These allergic reactions usually range from mild to severe.

A food allergy causes the following symptoms −

  • Swelling

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Mouth tingling

  • Hives Hay fever

Hay Fever Causes −

  • Itching in the roof of the mouth, in the nose and eyes

  • Red, watery and swollen eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Stuffy or runny nose An insect sting can

An Insect Sting Can Cause −

  • Chest tightness, wheezing and short breath and coughing

  • Hives or itching all over the body

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Swelling at the site of the sting

Difference between Cold and Allergies

The following table highlights the major differences between Common Cold and Allergies−

Cold / Allergies




Cold or common cold is mainly caused by viruses.

Allergies are immune system responses that are triggered due to exposure to allergens for example pollen.

When are the symptoms noticeable

Symptoms appear a day or two after being exposed to the cold causing virus −

The symptoms are sudden and come out of nowhere in the case of allergies

Are the symptoms predictable

Sometimes they are.

If the symptoms occur at the same time every year then they are seasonal allergies.

How long do the symptoms last

They tend to gradually reduce after a week or two.

They last as long as the triggering allergen is present in the air.

Pains or aches

It is common to have general aches and pains.

Individuals with an allergy generally do not have any aches or pains.


Fever with a temperature less than 100 F is present

No fever.

Sore throat is common in an individual with a cold whereas it is rare in case of allergies. The mucous is thick, green and yellow in case of cold and thin, clear and watery in case of allergies. And cough is common in cold and not really possible in case of allergies.


In conclusion, it is not easy to easily find the difference between cold and allergies because both of them have some similar symptoms like sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy and watery eyes and sometimes it causes weakness and fatigue. But it is advisable to seek the help of a healthcare professional when these symptoms seem to worsen.