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The Difference Between Cold and Allergy Symptoms

Allergy Symptoms vs. Cold Symptoms

As we transition into cold and flu season, it can be challenging to determine why your nose is running — is it a cold or is it allergies?

Sorting through symptoms to determine what is causing your runny nose, a virus or pollen, will help you better manage your symptoms. Here is the list comparing the symptoms of the common cold with those that accompany seasonal allergies that should help you figure out what is going on with your nose.

Itchy nose: Although allergies and colds both produce a runny nose and congestion, allergies create the uncomfortable and persistent itchy nose. The itch generally occurs in the back of the nose and is difficult to "scratch." Folks suffering from nasal pruritus (the fanciest way in the world to say "itchy nose") often scrunch up their faces, like a bunny, to try to alleviate the discomfort.

The sneeze: Sneezing frequently, and sometimes quietly, is common with allergies. Allergy sneezes are an attempt to remove allergens from the nose. Sneezes from colds tend to be loud, deep, and infrequent, attempting to clear the bronchial congestion down in the lungs. Unfortunately, the list of symptoms is a bit longer, so keep reading.

Runny eyes: While eyes might occasionally water with a cold, they will run profusely with allergies.

Mucus colour: Not a topic for polite conversation, but the colour of mucus actually factors heavily into this discussion. Mucus, aka snot, is generally clear with allergies, whereas with a cold it tends to have a colour — yellow to green — which indicates infection.

Cough: Coughing is associated with colds, but an allergy might cause occasional coughing. Postnasal drip can aggravate the back of the throat.

Dark circles under the eyes: This symptom is sometimes referred to poetically as the "allergy shiner." These "shiners" are caused by the inability of veins in the area to drain due to chronic nasal congestion. It is like a traffic jam in the area under your eyes. Common colds do not cause these. If you are living in allergy denial, hopefully this list will help you figure out that you do indeed have hay fever and need to leave the weeding and lawn mowing to someone else for now. If you think you have a cold, read up on foods to eat when you're sick; hopefully these foods will help you feel better soon.

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