The Difference between a Winter Cold and an Allergy

Winter colds are the worst. During the long, cold months of winter when you get hit with the sniffling, coughing, sore throat and body aches, it is just an awful experience. Have you ever wondered why that cold just won’t go away? In the worst of situations it can be tough to tell whether you have a cold, the flu, or even seasonal allergies.

Winter Allergies

Most people don’t think of winter as a time for allergies. However, winter allergies are just as common as reactions people have during the spring and summer. What is different is that people who suffer from allergies in the winter often don’t realize what is going on. They think that allergic reactions are actually just colds.

Common Symptoms

The problem is that allergic reactions produce many of the same symptoms as a common cold. When you are having an allergen attack, you may experience a cough and have congestion in your sinuses and chest. A stuffy or runny nose is common to both.


The biggest difference between a common cold and an allergy is that a cold lasts for a week to ten days, while allergies are recurrent through the entire season. If you seem to always catch cold right at the start of the winter months, and have recurring symptoms or symptoms that never seem to abate, you may be suffering from a seasonal allergy.

Other symptoms that could indicate an allergic reaction are itchy eyes or noses, and the lack of a low-grade fever and body aches. Often, a cold will begin with a sore throat and build to aches and fever. Allergies rarely have these symptoms.

At Any Time

Many people might be surprised to discover that even if you have never had allergies, you could end up with a reaction at any time. These kinds of ailments are created through repeated exposure to allergens, so that the more exposure a person has, the more likely they are to react.

Conversely, exposure can help to build resistance to allergies. This means that attacks can increase and wane over the years.

How to Tell

The signs above are indicators of the difference, but there is only one way to be certain if the ailments you suffer are a cold or a reaction to external stimuli. See a qualified doctor. Your primary care physician can often tell whether your ailment is a mundane cold or something else.

Controlling the Symptoms

Over-the-counter medications can often control mild to moderate symptoms. If these do not work, an allergist can run a full range of tests to determine exactly what the triggers are. Then a course of treatment can be designed towards the specific triggers.

The next time you suffer from a long-term minor illness in the winter months, think twice. If that cold seems to keep coming back, or goes on and on, it may be an allergy. If you think that you may be suffering from seasonal allergies, give us a call. We are here to help!

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