Sickness or Symptoms: How To Determine if Your Cold Is Allergies in Disguise

Man sneezing

Do sniffles and sneezes accompany changing seasons? The common cold is a common occurrence affecting most Americans between two to four times per year. However, these typical symptoms could be something more – allergies. The line between a cold and allergies can sometimes blur, leading to confusion about the best course of action. That’s why Allergy & Asthma Specialists’ allergists are here to help you identify your cause for discomfort and find lasting solutions.

Colds Vs. Allergies

The overlap of cold and allergy seasons often makes it challenging to discern the cause of symptoms. Therefore, the first step to relief is understanding what causes colds and allergies.

Colds are viral infections primarily caused by rhinoviruses that lead to upper respiratory symptoms. They are highly contagious and can spread through physical contact or the inhalation of viral particles. Colds are most prevalent during the fall and winter but can occur at any time of the year. 

Allergies are immune system reactions to substances that are typically harmless to most people. These substances, called allergens, trigger an exaggerated response of varying severity that can affect different parts of the body. Unlike colds, allergies are not contagious but can be inherited through genetics. Children are 50% more likely to develop allergies if at least one parent has them.

Signs and Symptoms

While colds and allergies share many symptoms, there are key differences that separate the two. For example, colds develop gradually and rarely linger, while allergies can flare up suddenly and stick around. 

Unsure if your sickness is allergies in disguise? Check your symptoms against this list:

  • Sneezing (Colds and Allergies)
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose (Colds and Allergies)
  • Headaches (Colds and Allergies)
  • Fatigue (Colds and Allergies)
  • Coughing* (Colds and Allergies)
  • Itchy and/or Watery Eyes (Allergies)
  • Fever (Colds)
  • Aches and Pains (Colds)
  • Sore Throat (Colds)

*While coughs are common to both, the type of cough can indicate a cold or allergy. Cold coughs are often wet, caused by a build-up of mucus. Allergy-induced coughs are dry and caused by irritation, not infection.

Treatment Options

Understanding the root cause of your symptoms is crucial for effective treatment. If symptoms persist or worsen, contact your local allergist’s office to determine next steps like allergy testing or a follow-up with your primary care provider.

If you are experiencing a cold, you should focus on treating the viral infection and nursing symptoms until it passes. Common cold treatments consist of rest, hydration and over-the-counter cold medications such as pain relievers, decongestants and cough medicine.

If you are experiencing allergies, your allergist will focus on developing long-term solutions for managing and mitigating your symptoms. Common allergy treatment plans include allergen avoidance strategies, antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids and immunotherapy (allergy shots) or oral immunotherapy treatments – the closest thing to an allergy cure.

Let’s identify your symptoms and eliminate discomfort!

Are unidentified symptoms causing you endless headaches? At Allergy & Asthma Specialists, our trusted allergy specialists are always ready to guide patients toward relief. With locations across the nation, allergy relief is always close to home. Contact us today to schedule your child’s allergy appointment.

About Allergy & Asthma Specialists

Allergy & Asthma Specialists is affiliated with Family Allergy & Asthma, a network of allergy and asthma doctors dedicated to providing high-quality, reliable and lasting allergy relief. Allergy & Asthma Specialists serves patients at eight Philadelphia-area locations, including the communities of Blue Bell, Collegeville, Doylestown, Jenkintown, King of Prussia, Landsdale, Philadelphia and Pottstown. For more information, visit, and follow Allergy & Asthma Specialists on Facebook, Instagram and X.