What Causes a Cold?

Colds are caused by hundreds of different cold viruses. When you are infected with one of these viruses, your immune system attacks it. The cold symptoms you experience – cough, sore throat, and congestion – are effects of the immune response to the cold virus. Colds are contagious, so they can be passed from person to person, either through the air or through close contact with a person infected with the virus or a surface contaminated by the virus. 1

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies are caused by an immune response to non-infectious substances, such as dust, pollen, or pet dander. Your body mistakes these substances for germs and attacks them, causing coughing, sneezing, and runny nose, the same way it does when fighting a cold. Unlike colds, allergies are not contagious, although some people may have a genetic tendency to develop allergies.

What’s the Difference Between Colds and Allergies?

There is a lot of overlap between cold symptoms and allergy symptoms. Here are a few of the differences between a cold and an allergy: 2

  • Colds typically last 7-10 days and allergies may persist for months (as long as you continue to be exposed to the substance that triggers it)
  • Colds can cause body aches and fever, but allergies do not
  • Itchy, watery eyes are more common with allergies, but can occur with colds
  • Nasal secretions during a cold are usually yellow mucus, while the runny or stuffy nose associated with allergy is usually clear mucus

If you think you have a cold, but your symptoms last longer than 10-14 days, see your doctor, who can help to determine if your symptoms might be due to allergy or some other problem.

How Can I Get Some Allergy Relief?

There is no cure for allergies, but if you are suffering from allergy symptoms, there are things you can do to find relief. In addition to avoiding exposure to the substances that trigger your allergies, antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants may provide you with allergy relief. Zicam® Allergy Relief is a non-drowsy, zinc-free homeopathic nasal spray that can help to soothe congestion and sinus pressure and relieve sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes so you can feel better faster.

  1. MedlinePlus. Common Cold. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000678.htm. Accessed July 14, 2014.
  2. WebMD. Cold, Flu & Cough Health Center – Is It a Common Cold or Allergies? Available at http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/common-cold-or-allergy-symptoms. Accessed July 17, 2014.

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