Diseases Allergy

How To Tell the Difference Between a Sinus Allergy And a Cold


Sinus allergy and cold often feature similar symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes and discomfort. The cold is caused by several hundred different types of viruses, while sinus allergy is caused by the body's overreaction to otherwise harmless substances. The body, in the case of allergies, treats harmless substances as though they are viruses or bacteria. While a cold is contagious and can be passed to other people, allergies are not contagious. There are obvious differences between sinus allergy and a cold, however, and knowing which signs to look for can keep you from treating the wrong condition. If you are already aware that you have allergies and it is not cold season, it is likely that you are suffering from allergies instead of a cold. Washing hands frequently and avoiding people who have the cold can prevent you from contracting the cold virus. Avoiding allergens, such as not going outside on days when the pollen count is high, can help stave off allergy problems.

Step 1

Consider the time of year and the length of your illness. Most colds don't last longer than two weeks, so if your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is likely that you are suffering from sinus allergy and not the cold. Colds are also more likely to occur in the winter, so getting sick in the spring or summer may make it more likely that you are suffering from allergies.

Step 2

Think about how quickly it took for your symptoms to appear. If you were around someone who was sick and it took a few days to begin displaying symptoms, it is likely that you are suffering from a cold. If you were outside or in a dusty house and you began suffering from itchy or watery eyes immediately, sinus allergy is more likely a problem than a cold.

Step 3

Think about how often you experience certain sometimes. People suffering from allergies often have a stuffy or runny nose with clear mucus and itchy, watery eyes, which are the two most common symptoms of allergies. Sore throat, coughing and fatigue are less common in people suffering from allergies. A fever and aches in the body are not present when someone is suffering only from sinus allergy.

Step 4

Think about the symptoms most commonly associated with a cold. Coughing, sore throat and a stuffy or runny nose with yellow mucus are the three most common symptoms of a cold. Body aches, fatigue and fever may also be present in some cases of the cold. Compare these symptoms with the symptoms most likely to occur when someone is suffering from allergies. While a stuffy or runny nose is common with both sinus allergy and a cold, there are also many differences between a cold and sinus allergy.

Step 5

Treat your allergies or cold. If you are suffering from a cold, drink plenty of water, take a pain reliever and get rest to recover from the cold faster. In the cases of allergies, try to avoid the allergen as much as possible and use medications that contain anti-histamines, such as nasal sprays, to relieve sinus allergy symptoms. Decongestants and shots to treat allergies may also be possible treatment options when suffering from allergies.


It is possible to suffer from both a cold and allergies at the same time. A doctor can help make a diagnosis if you are uncertain whether or not you have a cold or allergies. Decongestants and anti-histamine medications can be used to treat both allergies and the cold, if you are uncertain about which condition you are suffering from. It is possible to contract the cold virus all year round.

Sources and Citations

WebMD: Is it a Cold or Allergies? resource:  http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/common-cold-or-allergy-symptoms?page=2

WebMD Is it a Cold or Allergies? resource: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergy-symptoms

WebMD Symptoms of an allergy resource: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergy-symptoms

By Jenny Adkins, published at 02/27/2012
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