Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Allergies Or Colds? Here's How You Can Differentiate The Two

Feb 13, 2017 07:43 PM EST

Allergy or Cold?
(Photo : Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)
Allergies can often be mistaken for colds but here is how a person can differentiate one from the other.

Colds and allergies are oftentimes mistaken for each other and while they may share similar characteristics, they are still different in so many ways. Colds are definitely one of most common illnesses in the world and probably are the easiest to acquire.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults can acquire colds as much as two to three times a year. Allergies too are very common and in the US alone, there are 50 million people who have it. What more from the rest of the world? But how do you really know when someone has an allergy or a cold?

The number one difference between allergies and common colds are their causes. First and foremost, a cold is caused by a virus and according to Healthline, there are more than 100 viruses that can cause colds. Cold-causing viruses are usually airborne and can be passed through coughing and sneezing and even through touch. When a person catches a cold virus, the body immediately fights back and as a defense mechanism, the symptoms are produced.

Allergies, on the other hand, are caused by a hyperactive immune system, especially when your body is highly reactive to certain substances or 'triggers' like pollen, animal dander, dust mites, mold and even certain food. When an allergy is triggered, the body's immune system would then release histamines which are responsible for the allergy symptoms.

Colds and allergies have similar symptoms. Sufferers from both afflictions can exhibit coughing, sneezing, a runny nose and a sore throat. Allergy sufferers usually also have itchy eyes and while it is less common in colds, it is still possible.

If there are similarities then there are also differences. According to WebMD, if fever and body aches become a symptom then it is likely that the person is afflicted with a cold. If itching in certain parts of the body is involved, allergies are definitely involved.

Colds usually have a quick recovery time lasting from 7 to 10 days and if a cold persists beyond two weeks, then one should definitely seek medical advice. Allergy symptoms however, can last a number of weeks until the trigger has departed from the afflicted person's environment. Allergies are usually seasonal depending on the type of allergy one person has. However, allergies are still frequent all year round. 

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