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Consumer Reports: Is it a cold or allergies?

Sneezing with tissue
By Allison Fox

What exactly is making you sneeze and sniffle this time of year? It’s not always easy to say. Colds and seasonal allergies share a lot of uncomfortable symptoms.

Both commonly occur during spring and fall (although colds also show up in the dead of winter). And both can involve a stuffy nose, an itchy throat, and watery eyes.

But there are a few key differences between the two conditions. Here, a bit of insight into how health professionals make the right diagnosis—and what you need to know to treat each effectively.

Check Your Symptoms

One way to distinguish between a cold and allergies is to look at all the symptoms and evaluate the presence and severity of each, says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. That can help you (and your healthcare provider) get a feel for which condition is at the root of the problem.

Fever. Seasonal allergies won’t present with a low-grade fever, but a bad cold often will, Lipman says. (The fever associated with a flu, meanwhile, tends to be higher—often above 100° F.)

Aches and pains. Tender muscles and body aches point to colds (along with some other viral infections), not seasonal allergies. “Aches and pains with a [low-grade] fever are usually symptoms of a cold,” says Jay Portnoy, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy, asthma, and immunology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri.


Read the full article via Consumer Reports.

Learn more about the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Department at Children's Mercy.