Allergies or a Cold? The Similarities and Differences
Last updated: February 2023
Last month, while on my new journey of being a full-time caregiver, I suddenly got hit by worsening allergy symptoms, or at least what I thought was my allergies at the time. I had a runny nose, fatigue, headache, and congestion. I also had a wicked sore throat and was coughing quite a bit.
Thinking my symptoms were bad allergies
At first, I thought it was just a flare-up of my allergies. But as the days went on, I developed other symptoms, the most prominent being an extremely sore throat and body aches.
I then realized I was dealing with a cold or flu, not just worsening allergies. Once I realized this, I immediately got tested for COVID-19 and thankfully tested negative. But let's face it, with so many similar symptoms between colds and allergies, it can be hard to tell the difference and pursue the right treatment plan.
The common cold or flu symptoms
However, it can be difficult to distinguish symptoms at the onset, even for someone like me, who's been dealing with allergies for a lifetime.
One major difference between a cold and allergies is that allergies will rarely cause a fever. For me, getting a fever is extremely rare, even when I do have a cold. It is much more common that if you have a fever, it probably isn't due to allergies.1
Another distinction is body aches and fatigue. With a cold or the flu, it's more common to experience body aches. Allergies usually don't cause body aches. In my case, this is another somewhat subtle difference, as I experience fatigue caused by my other health conditions. However, extreme body aches are usually a definite sign that it's not allergies.1
The tell-tale sign that I was experiencing a cold rather than allergies was the severe sore throat. My throat was so sore and hoarse that I had completely lost my voice. I couldn't speak at all for several days. Typically, with allergies, this isn't a common symptom. Usually, an irritated throat from allergies is caused by a postnasal drip.1
Shared symptoms between allergies and sicknesses
Allergies and sicknesses like colds and flu share many symptoms, including sneezing, congestion, and runny nose.1
Of course, it's possible to be experiencing both a cold and an allergy flare-up simultaneously. But it's important to distinguish between them. In my case, at least this time around, my symptoms were caused by a cold. It lingered around for a while. On the contrary, my allergy symptoms are more intermittent and come and go, and of course, have a lot to do with my triggers.
Seek a diagnosis from your doctor
It can be confusing when dealing with both and when we are just embarking on our journey with allergies. There are just so many similarities in symptoms. This is why it's essential to see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis when uncertain. Getting a diagnosis will ensure that you receive adequate treatment, get rest, take care of your body, and reduce the spread of germs.
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