Common Cold vs. Allergies

Can’t tell if it’s a cold that you have, or if it’s your allergies acting up? It can be hard to tell the difference between the two if you don’t know what to look for. Your watery runny nose and sneezing could make you think that you have a cold when it’s your allergies that are the culprit. A cold is a viral infection that affects the nose and throat, while allergies are your immune system’s response to an allergen, like mold spore or pollen. With both conditions sharing similar symptoms, visit AFC Urgent Care Torrington. Our physicians can evaluate your symptoms and provide the best treatment.

Cold Symptoms

Following exposure to a virus that causes the cold, it could take from 1-3 days for symptoms to manifest. Symptoms and signs often vary from person to person and might include any of the following or, more typical, a combination of a few:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Slight body aches
  • Mild headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Unwell feeling (malaise)
  • Sinus pressure
  • Difficulty breathing deeply
  • Chest discomfort
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Drainage in the back of your throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue or general tiredness
  • Chills

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms can stem from exposure to different substances, affecting your sinuses and nasal passages, airways, digestive system, and skin. Allergic reactions can be mild, severe, or life-threatening. Here’s a breakdown of allergy symptoms based on common sources as identified by the Mayo Clinic:

Food Allergy Symptom:

  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat
  • Hives

Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis) Symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes or nose
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Eyes that are watery, red, or swollen (a sign of conjunctivitis)

Insect Sting Allergy Symptoms:

  • Swelling(edema) at the sting site
  • Itching over the body
  • Hives cover the body
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis



When you have an allergic reaction, mucus is clear or watery and will remain as such. With a cold, the mucus will change from clear to thick or discolored-yellow or green.

Itchy or Watery Eyes

Itchy or watery eyes are common symptoms of allergies. This is a rare symptom of a cold.


An allergy symptoms may be intense initially, for up to 2 days, but won’t change throughout the illness. With a cold, your symptoms may change every couple of days. A fever and stuffy nose in the beginning stages could disappear and be replaced with a sore throat lasting for another couple of days, then a cough comes on before the virus leaves your system, and you are well again.


It’s common for someone with an allergy to have sniffles that last for weeks, while a cold typically clears up in 7 to 10 days.

Cough, Low Fever, Headache, or Mild Body Aches

Unlike a cold, achiness, coughing, and fever aren’t symptoms that are common to allergies, even though allergies can seldom set off a cough caused by drainage in the back of the throat. Asthma could also be the trigger.

Situational Symptoms

If you notice that your symptoms show up every spring, it may be allergies since spring is allergy season. Colds usually emerge during late fall and the wintertime.

It’s easy to mistake allergies for a cold and vice versa because of the shared similarities of both conditions. Knowing the differences can help you to administer the right treatment that will help with your recovery. Visit AFC Urgent Care Torrington if you think that you have allergies or symptoms of a cold.