Allergies or Cold? The Ultimate Guide to Figuring It Out

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It’s raining and starting to get cold outside, and all of a sudden you’re sneezing and suffering from an itchy throat. Is it allergies or a cold? Find out with this guide!

by Atomic Mommy Editors

Feature Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional before making any medical decisions.

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Sometimes when we are stressed or tired, it can take a while to shake off a cold. Getting some rest, avoiding alcohol and consuming healthy foods could be all you need to do to cure your cold.

However, a persistent cold could also be a sign of something else, in which case other treatment may be necessary. Below are a few signs that you may have more than a cold.

Signs it’s turned into a sinus infection

A lingering cold can aggravate the sinuses and eventually develop into a sinus infection. This is when the cavities linking up our nose, mouth and ears become painful and inflamed.

A cold typically displays symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, a sore throat and body aches. You can usually tell it has evolved into a sinus infection if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Toothache
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of smell

Most colds last 7 to 10 days. If it’s been several weeks, you may want to see a doctor. Sinus infection treatment may be possible through over-the-counter medication, but in some cases a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or recommend surgery (in severe cases). 

Signs it may be an allergy

A persistent cold could also be an allergy. We can develop new allergies at any time in our life. This is when our body mistakes certain foreign bodies as toxic – which could include pollen, pet dander, dust mites or mold.

Allergies can cause a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and wheezing just like a cold. However, there are usually other symptoms too like:

  • An itchy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red sore eyes

It’s worth noting that an allergy does not usually cause a sore throat. If you have a sore throat it’s most likely not an allergy.

A lingering cold in summer could be hay fever – especially if it is worse in the morning and evening. Pet allergies can be diagnosed by taking a break from your pets and seeing what difference it makes. Try taking over-the-counter antihistamines to see if these have any effect at treating your symptoms – if symptoms go away, you’re likely dealing with an allergy. Symptoms like wheezing may require getting prescribed an inhaler. In all cases, it can be worth seeing a doctor for the best tips on how to live with your allergy.

Signs you may have COVID-19

Yes, COVID-19 is still around. Symptoms of COVID can vary, but typically share many symptoms of a cold including a cough and body aches. A runny nose and sneezing is usually not a sign of COVID. A few symptoms that can distinguish COVID from a cold include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Complete loss of smell/taste
  • Headaches

A COVID test can determine if you have COVID or not. Most people are able to recover by getting plenty of rest. If you start to have trouble breathing or have a serious fever, you should call a doctor.

Signs it could be something else

It is important to look for unusual symptoms when determining whether a cold is no longer just a cold. Some of the telltale signs that you are dealing with something else, and should see a doctor, include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Painful swallowing
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhoea/constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Rashes

Wrapping Up

When you’re experiencing cold-like symptoms that persist or worsen, it’s important to consider the possibility of underlying causes such as a sinus infection, allergies, COVID-19, or other health conditions. While rest and home remedies may be sufficient for a common cold, it’s crucial to seek medical advice if you experience unusual symptoms or if your condition does not improve within a reasonable timeframe. Remember, only a healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment. Stay vigilant, take care of yourself, and consult with a doctor for personalized guidance on managing your symptoms and maintaining your well-being.

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