Can you tell if your sniffles are a cold or allergies? Quiz yourself on your symptoms to find out.
You feel it coming on again: the scratchy throat, the tiredness and the runny nose. Before you reach for the cold medicine or antihistamines, how can you be sure which remedy will work best?
Is your runny nose and sneezing allergies or a cold? The two conditions share some common symptoms:
- Runny and/or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
While these can be either cold or allergy symptoms, there are additional cues that can help you determine whether it’s seasonal allergies vs. cold symptoms that have you down.
Take our cold or allergies test below to learn how to tell if it’s allergies or a cold.
Allergies or a Cold Quiz
It can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are the result of a summer cold or allergies, but there are tell-tale signs. Check your symptoms here, then scroll down to get your results from our cold or allergy quiz.
Answer Key: Is this a cold or allergies?
If most or all of your answers fell into the blue section, you’re probably experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms. Answers that fall primarily into the green section suggest the common cold. But let’s go over your answers to get into the finer points of how to know if you are suffering from allergies or a cold.
Onset of symptoms
Allergy symptoms typically come in sudden waves of sneezing and itching upon exposure to known allergens, like tree pollens, grasses, weeds, pet dander and dust. Cold symptoms may build gradually and peak in about two or three days.
Is clear mucus allergies or cold-related? Whether you have bad allergies or a cold, you may experience a runny nose or nasal congestion; however, thin and clear mucus usually indicates allergies. With the common cold or other infections, that infection will show up as thick, yellow or green mucus.
Swollen, watery eyes vs. body aches
Are itchy, watery eyes cold or allergy symptoms? The sneezing that occurs with both allergies and colds can make your eyes water briefly, but watery eyes that are also itchy and swollen are probably due to allergies. Common cold symptoms frequently include the body aches and a sore throat we associate with viral illnesses.
Itchy eyes vs. fever
Red, itchy eyes are classic seasonal allergy symptoms. There is usually no fever with allergy attacks; a low-grade fever often occurs with a cold, though it is more common in young children.
The biggest difference between colds and allergies may be in the timing. As the name seems to indicate, a “cold” most often strikes during the coldest months of the year. Contrary to popular myth, it’s not overexposure to frigid weather that brings on cold symptoms. Rather, it’s the tendency for people to gather together indoors during inclement weather that increases the risk of catching and spreading contagious upper respiratory infections.
By contrast, allergy sufferers find themselves in the height of misery at the same time every year: spring, and to a lesser extent, summer and fall. Left untreated, the suffering can last all season long. If your symptoms arrive like clockwork, that could be a sign of allergies.
Treating seasonal allergies vs. a cold
Rest and drink plenty of liquids any time you are sick. With a cold or allergies, over-the-counter medications like guaifenesin (Musinex) and nasal irrigation can help clear out mucus and phlegm to make you more comfortable.
It is important to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis, because allergies and cold symptoms will largely require different treatments. Your provider can get a better look inside the ears, nose and throat for signs of inflammation or infection. Once you know if you are suffering from allergies or a cold, your doctor can prescribe the most effective allergy treatment, cold remedy or preventive immune system support.
If allergy or cold symptoms become severe or do not improve on their own, you can schedule a virtual care visit on demand to get face time with a BJC provider from the comfort of your own home 7 days a week.
Or, you can visit a Convenient Care near you to see a provider in person same day.