Is It a Cold or Is It Seasonal Allergies (Aka What the Heck Is Happening to Me)?
Your nose is runny, your eyes are swollen and your new nickname might as well be Sneezy. Classic seasonal allergy symptoms, right? Maybe, but you could also be battling a cold. “They can be hard to tell apart,” says allergist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Janna Tuck, MD. But there are a few telltale signs that can help you figure out what’s going on. Check your symptoms below and conduct your drugstore shopping trip accordingly.
My Eyes Keep Tearing (and Not Because I Watched Marley & Me Last Night)
Watery eyes with a side of itchy? That’s probably allergies. “Eye symptoms for colds are minimal unless it causes pink eye,” says Dr. Tuck.
I Keep Coughing. And Coughing.
This one’s tricky—it could be a cold or allergies. “Cough is not universally a cold symptom,” Dr. Tuck reveals. “While you might cough from a cold, allergic drainage [thicker than usual mucus] down the back of the throat can also cause a cough.” Don't worry, we'll get to the bottom of this yet—keep reading to check your other symptoms.
Head = Jackhammer
Ouch, ouch, ouch. Headaches from allergies are rare, so you’re likely experiencing a cold symptom. Either that, or you had one too many glasses of Pinot last night (hey, no judgment).
I’m Super Hot (and Not in a Sexy Way)
Time for some chicken noodle soup—fevers can accompany colds but are very rarely an allergy symptom.
My Whole Body Hurts, Like Post-Spinning Muscle Aches Times 100
You’re probably looking at a cold symptom. “If the allergies are severe, they may cause fatigue, but generally body aches or chills are viral and not allergic in nature,” says Dr. Tuck.
I’ve Been Feeling Rough for a Really Long Time
Yep, that’s allergies. “A cold generally lasts 10 to 14 days, while allergies may go on longer depending on what is causing the symptoms,” she says. Another clue that your long-lasting “cold” is actually seasonal allergies? If you keep having the same symptoms at the same time every year.
I’m on My Third Cup of Coffee and I’m Still Exhausted
Hmm, this one’s another toughie, since fatigue could be a symptom of allergies or a cold. (And you know, staying up all night watching Netflix.) Let's see what's happening with your nose for a better idea of what's going on...
My Nose Won’t Stop Running
“Colds and allergies both can cause nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose,” explains Dr. Tuck. But the difference between a cold and allergies is the mucus: If it’s thick and yellow (ew, sorry), then you’re likely in cold territory, whereas thin and watery mucus (again, ew) points toward an allergy.
But remember, says Dr. Tuck, go see a doctor if your symptoms are moderate to severe, hard to control with medications or are just plain bothersome!