Differences Between Colds and Allergies

Take stock of your symptoms and how long they last to help you decide what’s causing your trouble.

Characteristic Cold Allergy
How Long It Lasts 3-14 days Days to months — as long as you’re in contact with the allergy trigger
When It Happens Most often in the winter, but possible at any time Any time of the year — although the appearance of some allergy triggers are seasonal
When It Starts Symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus Symptoms can begin immediately after

contact with allergy triggers

Symptom Cold Allergy
Cough Often Sometimes
Aches Sometimes Never
Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes
Fever Rarely Never
Itchy, watery eyes Rarely Often
Sore throat Often Sometimes
Runny or stuffy nose Often Often

The most important difference is that colds usually don’t last longer than 14 days. So see your doctor if you still have symptoms after 2 weeks. These may be allergy symptoms or signs of another problem.

Sinus Infection Symptoms

Look for the following symptoms:

  • Sinus pressure behind the eyes and the cheeks
  • A runny, stuffy nose that lasts more than a week
  • A worsening headache
  • A fever
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Thick yellow or green mucus draining from your nose or down the back of your throat (postnasal drip)
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sense of smell
Allergies vs Cold vs Sinus Infection
Allergies vs Cold vs Sinus Infection