How to Tell If You Have
a Cold or Allergies
Because allergies and colds have similar symptoms,
it can be diffi cult to determine whether what you are
experiencing is a cold or seasonal allergy. Determining
the cause of your symptoms is important, because how
you treat a cold is different from how you treat allergies.
In addition, if left untreated or treated improperly, it can
result in more serious complications. Allergies can turn
into bronchial infections and colds can turn into sinus
infections. Once the initial issue turns into a more serious
problem, recovery can be delayed from a few weeks to a
What is a cold?
A cold is a virus, which is transmittable. You can “catch
a cold” from another person when they send the virus
airborne by sneezing or coughing. A cold virus can also
be transmitted by shaking hands and by simply coming
into contact with the same items that a person with a cold
virus has used or held. This is why colds and fl us spread
like wildfi re throughout offi ces. Modern energy effi cient
buildings also don’t help with colds and fl us as they keep
the viruses contained or even spread it through the system.
One of the main differences between a cold and allergies
is that a cold is transmittable and allergies are not. If you
go into the offi ce with a cold, you risk infecting everyone
around you. If you go into the offi ce with allergies, the
only one that will suffer is you.
What is an allergy?
Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system
that mistakes harmless substances like pollen and dust
for foreign invaders. When your body recognizes these
foreign invaders, it releases a substance called histamines.
It is these histamines that cause the cold-like symptoms.
This is why most allergy medications are called antihistamines.
They help prevent your body from releasing
the histamines to fi ght the harmless substances. Unlike
a virus, the only thing working against you is your own
immune system. The pollen or dust isn’t contributing to
your symptoms the same way a cold or fl u virus is. With
allergies, modern energy effi cient buildings and HVAC
systems can actually be helpful, since they keep pollen
and other outdoor allergens at bay.
10 Ways to determine whether it’s a Cold or Allergies
1. Fever An allergy will rarely cause a fever, so if your
temperature is high, you probably have a cold, not
2. Fatigue Allergy medications have come a long way
and while there are a few that can still cause you to
feel drowsy or sleepy, most will not. If you are not on
any allergy medications and you feel tired, worn out or
exhausted, you probably have a cold. While allergies
themselves have a number of the same symptoms as a
cold, fatigue is generally not one of them.
3. Itchy throat or sore throat Allergies can irritate the back
of your throat and cause an itchy sensation, but a sore
throat is generally the symptom of a cold.
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