What’s the Difference Between a Cold, the Flu and Allergies?

What’s the Difference Between a Cold, the Flu and Allergies?

Similar symptoms can make colds, the flu and hay fever hard to distinguish. Learn how to tell the difference.


You’re probably familiar with the symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, cough and fatigue. But how do you know if your symptoms are pointing to allergies, a cold or the flu? A few simple questions can help determine if you’re having an allergic reaction to environmental factors of if you have a cold or flu bug. Once you know, you can treat the cause or the symptoms and feel better sooner.

Do You Have a Fever?
A temperature of 100 F to 102 F is often one of the first signs of the flu. This fever may be accompanied by chills, aches and pains severe enough to send you to bed. We all know someone who can power through a cold, but it’s often impossible to stay awake or function when the flu strikes.

What Season Is It?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season in the United States may begin as early as October and can last as late as May, peaking between December and February. In contrast, those experiencing hay fever are symptomatic during spring, summer and early fall. And despite its name, you won’t have a fever with hay fever. It’s an allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores and pollen from grass, trees and weeds. A stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes can mimic cold symptoms, but once you learn about the allergy symptoms from an allergist, it’s easier to tell the difference.

Has Everyone Caught the Same Bug?
As the name suggests, just about everyone catches the common cold. According to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, more than 1 billion people suffer from colds each year in the United States alone. Chronic sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and watery, itchy eyes can make you feel miserable, but you likely won’t get the extreme body aches you experience with the flu. Fever, headache and extreme fatigue are rare with the common cold, which usually clears up within 10 days.

How to Feel Better
Once you know whether you’re dealing with a cold, the flu or allergies, try these tips to feel better sooner:

  • If you’re allergic to dust, pet dander, pollen or mold, try these tips for reducing your exposure to allergens
  • Use Puffs Plus Lotion tissues to get soothing comfort for sniffles. They have a touch of shea butter, aloe and vitamin E – perfect for the sneezing that comes with seasonal allergies and colds
  • Try DayQuil Cold and Flu LiquiCaps to help you power through common cold and flu symptoms, including nasal congestion, cough, sore throat, minor aches and pains, and fever
  • If you have the cold or the flu, sleep is essential to recovery. NyQuil Cold and Flu LiquiCaps provide relief from cold and flu symptoms so you can get the sleep you need
  • If you have high blood pressure, try specially formulated DayQuil HBP and NyQuil HBP
  • Use VapoRub to help relieve your cough due to the common cold
Vicks VapoRub Original 50g
Vicks VapoRub

Relieves aches and pains and coughs

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