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Is It A Cold Or Is It An Allergy? By #AllergyFree- A Sanofi India Initiative

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

You sneeze for the first time that day. What’s the first thing to cross your mind? Is it just an irritation? Or the onset of a cold? And then the sneezes continue. For much longer than it’s expected. Is it still a cold or something else? What if it’s an allergy? If asked, can you differentiate between a cold and an allergy? It’s a question that puzzles many but only a few can answer.   Although the duration of symptoms can be a huge giveaway, there are also multiple factors that can help you differentiate between the two.

So, what defines cold and allergy?

Firstly, the causes of either are totally different. A person gets cold when a virus enters the body. Different viruses can lead to different things and there are hundreds of them out there.

Is it a cold or is it an allergy? By #AllergyFree- A Sanofi India initiative

A person can be infected with cold on exposure to the people with the same infection” The virus responsible can generate immune response such as coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose etc. Cold is highly contagious. A cold usually lasts for a week and most of the times the symptoms subside beyond this period”. In other words, our immune system erroneously considers substances such as dust, pollen, mould, etc. as harmful substances. These are termed “Allergens”.  

But allergies are different, they are the result of an overactive immune system. In other words, they occur when your immune system considers a harmless material as harmful such as dust, pollen, mould, etc. As soon as an allergen enters your body, the immune system releases certain chemicals as a response. These chemical substance triggers symptoms just as during a cold such as sneezing, coughing, swelling in the passageways of nose etc.  

Common cold is caused by a virus infection, while allergic rhinitis is a specific immune system response to an allergic trigger. Allergic rhinitis symptoms like repeated sneezing, postnasal drip and nose stuffiness begin immediately upon exposure to a trigger, while common cold symptoms do not start until 2-3 days after virus exposure.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What’s the difference between cold and allergy?

Although some of the symptoms of cold and allergy are similar to each other. While a cold can only cause discomfort lasting a couple of days, an allergy can be much severe and sometimes fatal. Here’s how you can differentiate between them:


Nasal Allergies



Sneezing & itchy eyes

Clear nasal discharge that turns into yellow or green.  


Only until the individual is exposed to the allergen and a few hours after it.

Lasts only a week or two.


Rapid & multiple times in sequence.

Not as frequent.


Summer, Monsoon, Spring.

Most common during winter.

Nasal discharge

Thin, watery or clear.

The thick residue is usually yellow or green.




Also read: Debunking Myths: Does Your Heart Really Stop When You Sneeze?

Cold urticaria is a rare condition that causes an allergic reaction to cold temperatures. It usually triggers a rash or hives after exposure to cold air, water, food or drink. Get yourself tested and take precautions whenever you come across any weather changes.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Cold and allergy management

While cold can be prevented through personal hygiene and avoiding contact with those infected. It’s best to drink a lot of fluid until the symptoms subside if you do get infected. If it’s the flu, it’s advisable to take proper medication to treat it in a better way.  

However, an allergy can be prevented by avoiding triggers when possible or ensuring the environment around you is hygienic. Allergy treatment doesn’t exist, but it can be managed with certain steps. Determining the allergy types via allergy testing is essential as it helps to manage them better. Understanding the difference between cold and allergy can be confusing, but if your symptoms last for more than two weeks, it’s recommended you seek proper medical attention to determine the allergy.

Also Read: Montair Lc

For more information on how you can identify and manage allergies, visit http://bit.ly/allergy_free


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