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You’re sneezing and sniffling, with a stuffy nose and an itchy throat. With these kinds of symptoms, you probably have a cold. Then again, allergies can cause similar symptoms. So which one is it -- a cold or allergies?

Before you open your medicine cabinet and start to search for relief, you need to know which type of medicine you need. Colds and allergies need different types of treatment.

When you're not sure what the problem is, try these three simple tests. They'll help you figure out whether you've got an allergy problem or just a typical cold.

Cold vs. Allergies: What Are Your Symptoms?

A runny nose and sneezing won't tell you whether you have a cold or allergies, because they can be signs of either condition. But some symptoms are unique to either colds or allergies.

To help you decide, check your symptoms against this list:

 

Cold

Allergies

Aches and pains

Sometimes

No

Itchy, watery eyes

Rarely

Yes

Runny nose

Yes

Yes

Fever

Rarely

No

Sneezing

Yes

Yes

Sore or scratchy throat

Yes

Sometimes

Stuffy nose

Yes

Yes

Fatigue

Sometimes (mild)

Sometimes

Cough

Yes

Sometimes

 

What's the Season?

If you're sneezing and sniffling in April and your car is coated with yellow-green pollen, you may be able to point to an obvious cause: seasonal allergies or hay fever. This is especially true if you get the same symptoms at about the same time every year.

Colds can hit at any time of year -- even during spring and summer -- although they're most common when the weather gets chilly.

How fast your symptoms occur can also determine what's ailing you. Allergies often start almost immediately after you're exposed to your trigger. For example, if you've got pollen allergies, as soon as that pollen makes its way up your nostrils, you may have symptoms.

Cold germs typically take 1 to 3 days to make you sick. If your nose is starting to twitch and you realize you were sitting next to a sneezer at the movie theater 2 nights ago, a cold may be the cause.

Allergy Symptom Poll

When are your nasal allergy symptoms the worst?

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