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Understanding the differences between a cold and an allergy

26 March 2020

Differentiating between a cold and an allergy can be difficult especially when you keep sniffling, have itchy eyes and a scratchy sore throat. Is it a cold or just an allergy? It is important to understand how colds and allergies are different so that you’re aware of your ailment and can have a speedier recovery.

What are the main causes of colds and allergies?

Common colds are caused by viruses, and therefore, represent an infectious process, whereas allergies are caused by our immune system’s response to various environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair/dander, mold, and dust mites.

The causes behind this medical condition are easy to understand and known to most of us. However, the differences in the symptoms of colds and allergies can differ and get confusing sometimes. Paying heed to the time of the year can help in distinguishing a cold from an allergy. For example, when seasons undergo a transition, especially during spring and fall is when allergies are generally at their worst.

How to differentiate between a cold and an allergy?

Certain symptoms of a cold overlap with allergies, such as a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Colds are distinctively accompanied by other general symptoms, such as low-grade fever, malaise, fatigue, and decreased appetite. It is also possible that your runny nose begins to produce thicker discharge that may look yellow or green in colour.

In addition, the symptoms that one generally experiences at the onset of a cold are more severe than those of an allergy. One might easily think of a friend, family member or colleague who passed on that cold to you. However, it is important to go see a health care practitioner if you start suffering from severe sinus pain, swollen glands or a high fever beyond 39 degrees Celsius that is accompanied by chills and extreme sweating.

Additionally, symptoms of allergies tend to last longer and have a recurrent pattern, correlating well with exposure to certain triggers (dust mites, mould, and animal hair to name a few). Always be on the lookout for certain patterns that easily help in differentiating colds from allergies. Having prominent itching in the nose, throat, and eyes and sudden sneeze fits every year during the same period indicate that you’re suffering from an allergy as these symptoms are not always common with colds.

What can you do to relieve allergy symptoms?

  • Reduce the humidity level and keep the room temperature at 19°C.
  • Vacuum and dust regularly.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water every week.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses to prevent pollen from landing on your head or in your eyes.
  • Use a nasal saline solution to wash away pollen you have already inhaled.
  • Use eye drops if your eyes are dry and itchy. Eye drops can help both with flushing pollen out of your eyes and moisturizing dry eyes.
  • Take RhinAllergy, a non-drowsy homeopathic medicine to relieve symptoms caused by seasonal allergies (hay fever, pollen) and environmental allergens (dust, mould, pet hair) such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and scratchy throat. Rhinallergy does not cause drowsiness as it does not contain antihistamines.


This homeopathic medicine may not be right for everyone. Always read and follow the label.