A cold can be miserable. The sore throat, stuffy nose, and sneezing can rob you of vital sleep and your sense of humor. People in the United States have about 1 billion colds each year, and, in fact, colds are a leading reason why people visit the doctor and miss school or work.
But what if your “cold” symptoms are actually caused by an allergy? How can you tell the difference?
“Itchiness,” says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, clinical instructor in the division of infectious diseases and immunology at the New York University School of Medicine. “When you have a cold, you’ll never have itchiness of the eyes, nose, and throat. An allergy always causes some form of itchiness, such as a scratchy nose and throat and watery eyes.”
The trick to distinguishing colds from allergies, in addition to the itchiness, is recognizing the different patterns of symptoms.