Is It Allergies or a Cold? How to Tell If You’re Sick in the Summer

summer cold

There’s nothing worse than getting sick right before summer vacation. You’ve planned the trip for months, outfits and all! Then out of nowhere, your nose is runny, your eyes are irritated, and your throat is feeling a bit scratchy. Initially you think, “I’m getting sick!” but then a colleague explains how your symptoms resemble her seasonal allergies. You’re convinced it’s a cold because you never get seasonal allergies. That leads you to stock up on medicines for a cold and you even begin to anticipate the possibility of canceling a couple of excursions planned for the trip. Suddenly, the next day you start to feel better and think maybe it was all in your mind. But then, a couple of days after feeling like yourself again, you’re struck with another set of cold-like symptoms. 

So which is it a cold or allergies?

Your dilemma is quite common. It’s a phenomenon so many of us confuse: cold vs. allergies. During the summer when one doesn’t anticipate getting sick, the symptoms are especially difficult to decipher. However, there are a couple of ways of differentiating the symptoms so that you don’t have to play a never-ending guessing game. 

Here are the major differences and commonalities:      

Symptoms of a Cold 

Generally, symptoms of a cold will last beyond two consecutive weeks. During this time, the symptoms may fluctuate, but they typically start off slow, whereas allergies tend to appear out of nowhere. 

These are the most tale-telling signs of a cold:   

  • The length of your cold will eventually wear off a couple of weeks. The average length of a cold is 10 days, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, allergies may persist for weeks. 
  • Your body’s temperature is another way of telling you have a cold. A fever of 101.3 F or greater is an indicator you’re sick. 
  • The combination of a sore throat, congestion, cough, and drowsiness may often be related to your cold. 
  • For children, a cold may involve an ear infection, lack of appetite, and/or fussiness. Be sure to have your child examined by their pediatrician. 

Allergy Symptoms

Although it’s not as widely discussed, allergies are common in the summer. A large part of summer allergies has to do with what’s going on outside. As the pollen off the ground makes its way inside and the mixture of wind and rain create more damp environments, you may begin to notice your symptoms worsening. Sufferers will experience nasal congestion, irritated or watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and apparent dark circles, which are a result of these symptoms.

Here are a couple of ways to tell you’re suffering from allergies and not a cold:


  • Symptoms persist longer than 10 or so days.


  • Your symptoms appear strong and out of nowhere.
  • The color of your mucus may also reveal whether you have allergies. If the color is more of a yellow or green color, then you likely have a cold.
  • If your throat feels itchy or scratchy (doesn’t ache), you are likely dealing with allergies.

What You Can Do If You Can’t Tell

Since it’s not always possible to tell the differences between seasonal allergies and a cold, an exam from a medical professional is the best way to get the answers you need. When you come to El Paso Family & Pediatric Clinic, we’ll provide you or your child with a thorough exam so that you won’t have to question your condition. Once we examine the symptoms, we’ll recommend the best form of treatment. Our goal is to provide you with all the answers you need to take control of your health today and going forward. 

Please connect with us today to learn more!  

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