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How do I know if what I have is a cold or an allergy?

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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.

If you're sneezing and sniffling in April and your car is coated with yellow-green pollen, you may have seasonal allergies or hay fever.

Allergies often start almost immediately after you're exposed to your trigger. Cold germs typically take 1 to 3 days to make you sick.

If you start to feel better after a couple of days, you probably have a cold.

From: Is It an Allergy or Just a Cold? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Mandell, G. , 7th ed, Churchill Livingstone, 2009. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases

Kliegman, R. , 18th ed, Saunders Elsevier, 2007. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Tips to Remember: Rhinitis."

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Flu/Cold or Allergies?"

Merck Manual: "Seasonal Allergies."

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Flu Information: Is It a Cold or the Flu?"

Family Doctor: "Colds and the Flu," "Antihistamines: Understanding Your OTC Options," "Decongestants: OTC Relief for Congestion," "Pain Relievers: Understanding Your OTC Options."

MedicineNet: "Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)."

News release, FDA.

Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein on August 1, 2018

SOURCES:

Mandell, G. , 7th ed, Churchill Livingstone, 2009. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases

Kliegman, R. , 18th ed, Saunders Elsevier, 2007. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Tips to Remember: Rhinitis."

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Flu/Cold or Allergies?"

Merck Manual: "Seasonal Allergies."

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Flu Information: Is It a Cold or the Flu?"

Family Doctor: "Colds and the Flu," "Antihistamines: Understanding Your OTC Options," "Decongestants: OTC Relief for Congestion," "Pain Relievers: Understanding Your OTC Options."

MedicineNet: "Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)."

News release, FDA.

Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein on August 1, 2018

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How long do cold symptoms last?

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