Health & Wellness Articles

Is It a Cold or Allergies?

Find Out What Ails You by Assessing Your Symptoms

By Liza Barnes, Registered Nurse and Health Educator         
Page 2 of 2

According to the National Institutes of Health, if you have a cold, you are most contagious and should stay at home for the first 2 to 3 days, and you are usually not contagious by days 7 to 10. Colds usually last from 3 to 14 days. To prevent cold reoccurrence, wash your hands often, stay away from people who are having cold symptoms, and support your immune system.

Think It May Be Allergies?
The treatment of allergies focuses primarily on avoidance of the allergen, and on symptom management. To prevent allergies, talk with your health-care provider to try to determine your triggers, and take measures to avoid them. You may also want to ask about allergy medications, if your symptoms are constant or unmanageable. In contrast to the common cold, allergies are not contagious, so as long as your symptoms are manageable you don’t need to stay home.

In most cases, you don’t need to see a doctor if you are having symptoms of a cold or allergies, unless your symptoms become unmanageable, if breathing becomes difficult, if your symptoms get worse, or if you don’t start to get better within 7 to 10 days.

Is it a Cold or an Allergy? from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Common Cold, from Medline Plus.
Was Grandma Right? Chicken Soup’s Health Benefits, from the Office of Research Services of the National Institutes of Health.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I'd suggest following the advice to boost your immune system if you have allergies as well as if you have a cold. Having seasonal, dust, and pet allergies frequently means there's a fair amount of goo in your sinuses; that's an excellent medium for an infection. (For me, a series of sinus infections was how my healthy-care provider figured out I had allergies.) Boosting your immune system may help you stave off the secondary infections; it may even help lesson the symptoms of seasonal allergies. - 4/5/2015 12:25:28 PM
  • Good article, its not exactly right though. - 10/20/2012 12:44:20 PM
  • now I know its cold I have. - 4/13/2012 11:13:39 PM
  • My sinuses are a little more complicated. I have some allergies, I get colds, I sometimes get the flu in spite of the shots, and my sinuses react to changes in the weather. So when I get sinus issues, I get to figure out if it's the weather, my allergies, a cold, or the flu. If I guess wrong and let it drag on too long, it will either turn into a sinus infection or else settle in my throat and take forever to get rid of.

    It's actually not that uncommon for allergies to cause a sore throat if there are sniffles involved. Some of them run down the throat and cause irritation. - 12/15/2011 2:27:46 PM
  • Thanks for the information. I have had lingering symptoms and was wondering if it was allergies. The fever and raw throat at the outset answered my question. Thanks! - 12/15/2011 12:45:54 PM
  • I would like to see one that was titled "is it a cold or the flu?" - 11/8/2011 9:32:20 PM
  • I've been feeling miserable for weeks now. My mucus is clear. Never thought of allergies...Now to find out what I am allergic to. - 3/30/2011 11:12:46 AM
  • In my case, the ENT said that if there's color (i.e. yellow or green) in the mucus during the day there's some sort of sinus infection involved. I have nearly year-long allergies, and would often get sinus infections from them. For me, the trick was to stop taking the decongestants my family doctor had recommended. Decongestants dry the mucus membranes and were causing my narrower-tha-usua
    l sinus passages to plug up. - 3/30/2011 7:12:17 AM
  • STORMY724
    My doctor told me if it starts with a runny nose it's an allergy & when it starts with a sore throat it is a cold. In my case I've found that to be true, but maybe it isn't always for everyone. - 3/30/2011 6:09:58 AM
    Carolj35-usually they say that, but I have severe allergies and often the mucous can run yellow and I have had fever with allergies, but then again, I can be a bit of an odd duck. - 3/14/2011 12:12:16 PM
  • And isn't it true that the mucous from nose is yellow with a cold and clear with allergies? Just last week I thought I was catching cold, but it was allergies, and yes, I had a slight sore throat. Lots of hot water, lemon and honey helped. - 1/16/2011 8:17:40 PM
    I've always wondered what the difference was---Now i know, thanks - 10/15/2010 6:56:05 PM

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