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Differences Between Seasonal Allergies and the Common Cold

It’s that time of year when many people suffer from runny noses, sore throats, congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and coughing. As you try to manage your symptoms, you might find some relief, but many people are left feeling very confused about their health status.

When you have the same symptoms for allergies as you do for the common cold, how do you know which one it is? Both allergies and colds present in similar ways, but there are three key differences to note when trying to determine which one your body is battling.

Body aches

Are you coughing, sneezing, constantly wiping your runny nose, and feel like you got hit by a train? That last one is a classic symptom of the common cold. If your body aches it’s completely normal (within the scope of illness) to feel this way, though it’s not any fun.

Sometimes a warm bath with Epsom salt can help ease the pain, as can anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You may have some luck with an antihistamine, as they are partly responsible for the aches. If you have a cold you need the rest anyway!


Allergies wreak havoc on your day in some ways; fever is not one of them. A fever is your body’s natural defense to an invasion of infectious organisms, the very organisms responsible for the common cold. You see, these organisms need the perfect environment to survive and thrive. Their version of paradise is somewhere in the range of a nice and balmy 98.6 degrees.

When your body notices the organisms, it will send out its army of white blood cells and their antibodies to fight the invasion. If the organisms start winning the fight, your body decides to bring in the secret weapon: a fever. From this balmy 98.6 the body temperature increases and creates an environment too heated to survive in with the expectation that the organisms can kill them.

If you’re experiencing a fever with your symptoms, you do not have allergies; you have a cold.

If you are an adult (18+ years old) and your temperature is rising to 103 degrees it’s time to call your doctor or visit a health care clinic.

The same recommendation remains for a child (2 to 17 years old) with a fever approaching 103 degrees that are not responding to medication, and if your child ages 3 months up to 2 years has a fever approaching 103 degrees. If a child under the age of 3 months is running a fever of any type, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Recovery time

The common cold typically runs its course within 3 to 5 days. Allergies can last entire seasons, or all year long. If you’re 5 days into this icky feeling and haven’t experienced body aches or a fever, you may have allergies.

If you’ve never experienced allergies in your life, it doesn’t matter. The unpleasant reality about allergies is your body’s capacity to develop them at any time.

If you want to take medications, there are other ways to cope and manage them the best you can:

  • Take a shower before bedtime to rinse allergens off your body.
  • Try running a humidifier or diffusing essential oils while you sleep.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. (Vitamin C and water are your best options!)
  • Run an air purifier.
  • Keep your windows closed. 
  • Consistently changing your air filters.
  • Staying away from animals 
  • Take off your shoes and/or jacket when you get home.

Although you can’t fully understand what your allergies are causing, you can attempt and control them and live with them.
Contact your healthcare provider, or drop into one of Infinity Medical Care‘s Medical Specialty Facilities – Your Everyday Health Care Clinic to meet with us. We may be able to help you determine if you have the flu or allergies, and discuss ways to help you heal or manage whichever one is affecting you.

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