sneezeSince both the common cold virus and allergies can linger year-round, flare-up regularly during certain times of the year, and share similar symptoms, it can be hard to know exactly what’s happening when the sniffling starts.


A cold is commonly caused by a virus.  You can get a cold from another person that has that virus, even though you may be in good health.  This happens when you breathe in germs or come in direct contact with the infected person. 

To prevent yourself from getting a cold, frequently wash your hands, use a disinfectant on any contaminated surfaces and be careful when sneezing and coughing around others. 

The best course of action for curing a cold is to let it run its course.  Get adequate rest, drink lots of fluids, and eat nutritiously.  Over-the-counter medications, like an oral decongestant or a nasal saline, will help to alleviate the symptoms, but they will not cure your cold – only time can do that.


Allergies occur during an exposure to an allergen.  During this exposure, the nasal cavity becomes irritated and inflamed.  Although the symptoms are close to that of the common cold, allergies are not contagious. 

If you have a high temperature or an achy body, it is most likely that you have a cold, as this is not caused by allergies.  Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold.

There are no cures for allergies, but there are other options.  Prescription or over-the-counter medications can treat allergies, as well as allergy shots, a treatment your allergist/immunologist can give you to reduce your sensitivity to the allergens.

If you are unsure of what you may be allergic too, talk to your allergist/immunologist about getting a test done that can identify them for you.


While allergies and colds share some of the same symptoms, how your symptoms feel and how common they are can be unique. Here’s a chart comparing allergy and cold symptoms and other variables to provide an overview of the similarities and differences.

allergy and cold