Allergies or a cold: can you tell the difference?

This article is not a substitute for medical advice. Allevia should be used as directed according to the product label. If you suspect that you have allergies, consult with your doctor or pharmacist. Only they can make a proper diagnosis.

Allergies can sometimes be mistaken for colds and vice versa,1 are you confident that you can tell the two apart?

A man sneezing into a tissue

Allergies and colds share many common symptoms which can make it difficult for you to know for certain which condition you have.1 Fortunately, there are a few ways to distinguish allergies and colds from each other. We explore these signs’ in more detail below.

Similar symptoms but two very different conditions

While symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose can point to both allergies and colds,1 it is essential to know precisely which condition is responsible. This is because allergies and colds are two very different diseases.2 While common colds are caused by viruses, allergies are caused by an immune response to something (an allergen) in the environment that is normally harmless such as dust or pollen.3,4 As allergies and colds have different causes, they need different treatments.2

Important signs when distinguishing allergies from colds

Luckily there are some reliable clues you can count on if you want to determine whether it is an allergy or a cold that is causing your symptoms. One way to do this is to identify when symptoms appear or get worse – do you seem to get "colds" that start suddenly and happen at the same time every year? If so, there is a chance that these “colds” could actually be seasonal allergies.2 Also, are your symptoms ‘situation-specific’, more commonly flaring-up in certain scenarios? For example, if your eyes itch and water when you are near your pet this could suggest an allergy to their dander.5

Aside from noticing when your symptoms arise or worsen, there are specific symptoms (such as itchy eyes)3 that occur only/more often with an allergy than a cold. Also, in this day and age, another condition that can have similar symptoms to allergy that it is also important to be able to recognise is COVID-19.6

Is it a symptom of an allergy, a cold or COVID-19?

symptoms of a cold, allergy and covid 19 in a table

So, we’ve now covered some of the most common symptoms of airborne allergies versus colds and COVID-19. Hopefully, you feel more confident with the differences between these conditions! However, keep in mind that while the differences in these symptoms are useful, they are only a guide as cases (the occurrence of specific symptoms) can sometimes vary between individuals.

The best treatment for your symptoms

The right treatment for your symptoms will depend on their cause. To treat colds, you should get plenty of rest and fluids; painkillers such as paracetamol may be helpful too.7 Meanwhile, antihistamines and steroid sprays may be used to treat allergies.8

Consulting with a doctor or pharmacist will help you know for certain if your symptoms are caused by an allergy or cold and therefore, help you start the correct treatments as soon as possible.

A quick word of caution

You should read the ingredients of your medication carefully. This is especially important if you are taking a few medications at the same time as there can be a risk of getting too much of an active ingredient (if all the medicines contain that same active ingredient). There is also the risk of one medicine interacting with the other. Always be sure to consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any doubts.

Using the wrong treatment for your symptoms can not only be ineffective but may even make your condition worse and/or cause unnecessary side effects.

Allevia® can help with symptoms caused by airborne allergies!

Take Allevia® before your hay fever symptoms take over you. Life isn’t waiting for your hay fever symptoms to pass and neither should you. That’s why Allevia® helps deliver relief that lasts 24 hours, acts within one hour and is prescription strength, so you can get on with enjoying your day. Don’t let pollen get in the way, live your greatness with Allevia 120mg tablets for the symptomatic relief of allergic rhinitis. Contains fexofenadine. Always read the label.

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  1. The Healthy. These 9 Medical Conditions Might Be Mistaken for Allergies. Available at: Accessed: March 2023.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Cold or allergy. Which is it? Available at: Accessed: March 2023.
  3. Mayo Clinic Health System. Is it an allergy or the common cold? Available at: Accessed: March 2023.
  4. NHS. Allergies. Available from: Accessed: March 2023.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Pet allergy. Available from:  Accessed: March 2023.
  6. Everlywell. Is it a cold, allergies, or COVID-19? Available from:'s%20start%20with%20a%20critical,with%20a%20cold%20or%20allergies.  Accessed: March 2023.
  7. NHS. Common Cold. Available from: Accessed March 2023.
  8. NHS. Allergies. Available from: Accessed March 2023.

Take Allevia before your symptoms take over you

Life isn’t waiting for your allergy symptoms to pass and neither should you.

That’s why Allevia® helps deliver relief that lasts 24 hours, acts within one hour and is prescription strength, so you can get on with enjoying your day.​

MAT-XU-2301601 V1.0 (May 2023)