Woman blowing her nose

Symptoms of seasonal allergies are very similar to the symptoms of the common cold. They both involve congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose. Particularly when they are mild, allergy and cold symptoms can be almost identical. Nevertheless, the following clear signs can help you distinguish allergies from a cold.

1. You have clear mucus.

Colds start out with clear liquid mucus, the same as allergies. As a cold progresses, however, the mucus becomes thicker and yellow in color. Mucus from allergies remains watery and clear for the duration. 

2. Your cough is dry, and you don’t have a sore throat.

If you are coughing up mucus from your lungs, you probably have a cold, even if the mucus is clear. Allergies typically cause a dry cough. A sore throat is also common with a cold but rarely seen with allergies. 

3. Your symptoms have a seasonal pattern.

If you have the same illness with the same symptoms every spring or fall, or even summer or winter, you probably have allergies rather than a cold. Seasonal allergies may be caused by specific allergens in every season:

  • Spring – tree pollens
  • Summer – grasses
  • Fall – weed pollens
  • Winter – dust mites, pet dander, and other indoor allergens

4. Your symptoms linger for longer than a week.

Colds typically run their course in three to five days and may last as long as a week. With continuous exposure to allergens, allergy symptoms can last a great deal longer. On the other hand, if you are able to remove yourself from the allergen causing your symptoms, you could feel better quickly, which is not the case with a cold. 

5. You have watery, itchy eyes.

If your eyes are itching and watering, you probably have allergies, not a cold. The eyes are typically not affected by a cold in the same way it affects the nose and throat. In addition to redness, itching, and watering, allergies can cause some swelling around the eyes. 

6. You are not running a fever.

Both colds and flus are likely to cause a fever. Elevated body temperature almost never happens with allergies. If you spike a fever, you probably have a virus. 

7. You don’t have the aches and pains.

Along with a fever, a cold or the flu can cause body aches and pains. The onset of a virus often sends a person to bed. Although allergies can make you feel tired and run down, they do not cause muscle aches. 

Do you need to see a doctor for allergies?

After a cold or a flu runs its course, most people recover, and their symptoms disappear. This is not the case with seasonal allergies. If left untreated, allergies can cause symptoms that continue as long as allergens are present, and they can return in the same seasons every year, whether in spring, summer, fall, or winter. 

Fortunately, treatment is available to significantly reduce allergy symptoms. At Texas ENT Specialists (TENTS), our top ENT doctors in Houston and the surrounding areas offer immunotherapy for allergies, with treatments in the form of allergy shots or drops self-administered under the tongue. If you suffer from allergies, schedule a consultation to receive an allergy treatment plan, individually tailored for you. 

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