Is It Allergies, a Cold or the Flu?

Shot of a young woman blowing her nose in a pharmacy

Is It Allergies, a Cold or the Flu?

Understanding the source of your particular symptoms is the key to getting the relief you need.

Published March 12, 2012

It’s getting to be that time of the year again, where seasonal changes have us sniffling and sneezing a little more often – for various reasons. Relief is all any of us want from a stuffy nose, hacking cough or aching, and whether it’s seasonal allergies, a cold, or the flu makes a big difference in what we need to do to feel better.

Understanding the source of your particular symptoms is the key to getting the relief you need.

Why You Need to Know

Obviously, knowing what you're dealing with helps you to get the right treatment. But in addition, not knowing can make you susceptible to other illness complications. For example, if you are prone to colds for a good part of the year, it's possible that you are actually suffering from allergies. With proper treatment your allergy symptoms could be minimized or entirely eliminated. However, left unattended, your allergies could develop into sinusitis or ear infections.

In addition, it is important to distinguish between colds and flu because untreated flu can sometimes lead to complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can even be life threatening.

What Are the Differences?

While the symptoms described in each of the following categories are quite common and can be used as general indications, individual cases may vary. If you are unsure of your situation or symptoms persist, call your doctor for treatment recommendations.


Symptoms usually strike quickly and can include runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, or watery and itchy eyes. You might experience itching in the ear, nose and throat. Nasal discharges are clear, thin and watery. Allergies occur during different seasons depending on what you are allergic to and can last weeks or months.

For more on allergies and colds, visit


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(Photo: PeopleImages)

Written by Lorraine Jones,


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