ADVERTISEMENT
Common Medical Conditions Data Verified

Is Common Cold a Disease or an Allergy?

Published on May 20, 2019 and last reviewed on Sep 23, 2022   -  4 min read

Abstract

This article discusses the common cold and how it can be related to and differentiated from allergies and treatment modalities different from allergies.

Is Common Cold a Disease or an Allergy?

Introduction:

Common colds and allergies have different causes. A common cold is an infection caused by a virus, and an allergy happens when a person comes in contact with an allergen trigger. The viruses that cause the common cold are contagious; anyone can pick them up when an infected person sneezes, coughs or shakes hands. An overactive immune system is the usual cause of allergies. For some reason, the body mistakes harmless things like pollen or dust for germs and attacks them. When this happens, the body will release some chemicals such as histamine same as it does while fighting the common cold. This may cause swelling in the passageways of the nose leading to sneezing and coughing. However, unlike the common cold, allergy is not contagious.

What Is Common Cold?

The common cold is a subtype of rhinitis (irritation or inflammation of nasal mucous membrane or nose) categorized as infectious rhinitis. As the name suggests, it is an infection, not an allergic reaction. The common cold affects the nose and upper respiratory tract (throat). It is often harmless, even though it might not feel that way. Healthy adults can expect two or three colds per year. However, infants and children may be affected by it more frequently.

What Are the Causes of Common Cold?

Hundreds of viruses are implicated in causing the common cold, but the most common is the rhinovirus. A cold virus will enter the body through the nose, mouth, or eyes. It generally spreads through the air droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Another mode of transmission is by hand-to-hand contact with an infected person or by sharing contaminated objects like towels, eating utensils, toys, or telephones. If a person touches the eyes, nose, or mouth after such contact, he is more likely to catch a cold.

What Are the Risk Factors of Common Cold?

It is an airborne viral disease that can be caused in any situation, but a few activities which seldom lead to the common cold are:

  • Daycare handling - taking care of a group of children.

  • Improper sleep - irregular and deficit sleep can cause this disease.

  • Psychological stress.

  • Weakened immune system.

  • Both adults and children are more prone to cold in fall and winter.

  • Infants and children are more prone to developing the common cold.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Common Cold?

Similar symptoms of allergic rhinitis and the common cold are:

The other symptoms of the common cold are:

  • Low-grade fever.

  • Coughing.

  • Sore throat.

  • Nasal congestion.

  • Mild headache or slight body aches.

  • General feeling unwell.

  • Translucent fluid discharge (transparent in case of an allergy).

Symptoms of allergy:

  • Wheezing.

  • Itchy and watery eyes.

  • Rashes on the skin.

In allergy, the symptoms appear rapidly after contact with the allergen, while in the common cold, it takes a day or two. The discharge from the nose may start clear and become thicker and yellow or green as a common cold runs its course.

What Are the Differences Between Common Cold and Allergies?

  • Common cold stays for three to 14 days, whereas allergy stays for days to months or as long as the person is in contact with the allergy trigger and a short time after.

  • Common cold usually happens in the winter but is possible at any time. In contrast, allergies can happen any time of the year, even though the appearance of some allergy triggers is seasonal.

  • In the case of the common cold, symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus. In contrast, in the case of allergy, symptoms can begin immediately after contact with allergy triggers.

  • Aches are seldom present with the common cold but never with allergies.

  • Watery, itchy eyes are rare with the common cold but often with allergies.

What Are the Precautions to Be Taken for Common Cold?

  • Washing hands after touching an object or after returning home and before meals.

  • Maintaining hygiene.

  • Use of face masks as they prevent direct inhalation of infections.

  • Avoid sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses with others.

  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces.

  • Eat and exercise properly and get good sleep.

What Are the Complications of Common Cold?

The complications that a person can develop from the common cold virus include:

  • Bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes).

  • Ear infections (otitis media).

  • Asthma, if present, gets worse.

  • Prolonged cough and post-infection phlegm.

  • Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses).

  • Other infections such as strep throat or pneumonia.

How to Diagnose Common Cold?

Most often, people with a common cold are diagnosed by their signs and symptoms. If a bacterial infection or any other condition is suspected, a chest X-ray or other tests may be recommended by the doctor to rule out any other cause of the signs and symptoms.

What Are the Treatment Options for Common Cold?

People often misunderstand the common cold with allergies and take anti-histamine drugs, which provide symptomatic relief but do not cure the infection. Treatment of common cold includes symptomatic therapy (removal of symptoms) like:

  • Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) for fever or pain relivers such as Ibuprofen. .

  • Antitussives for cough.

  • Decongestant nasal sprays.

  • Eye drops to relieve itchiness and watering.

Home remedies that are useful in relieving the symptoms of the common cold are:

  • Drink a lot of fluids like juice, water, and herbal tea.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they may lead to dehydration.

  • Gargle with salt water.

  • Sip warm liquids.

  • Use the cool most humidifier.

  • Use nasal rinses.

  • Use saline nasal sprays.

No specific medicines are available to treat common colds and they cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Conclusion

While some common cold and allergy symptoms are similar, these are two different health conditions. Proper diagnosis can help in getting the right treatment, and the person will be on the way to recovery quickly. Both common colds and allergies can cause bacteria and viruses to collect in sinuses and lower airways, resulting in serious infections. In case the symptoms last more than ten days or are getting worse, immediately see a doctor.

ADVERTISEMENT

Frequently Asked Questions


1.

Does the Term Allergy call the Common Cold?

The common cold is classified as contagious rhinitis ((inflammation of nasal mucous membrane or nose). Viruses induce common colds. Seasonal allergies are immune system reactions initiated by exposure to allergens.

2.

Is Common Cold Considered a Disease?

The common cold is a contagious viral disease of the upper respiratory tract that mainly involves the mucosa of the nose, throat, larynx (voice box), and sinuses (cavities, or air-filled pockets, that are around the nose passage). Signs and manifestations may arise less than two days after disclosure of the virus. These may possess coughing, sore throat, watery nose, head pain, sneezing, and fever. Individuals usually heal in seven to ten days, but some signs may stay up to three weeks. Sometimes, those with other health issues may conceive pneumonia (a disease that inflames the air sacs of the lungs. The air sacs may fill with liquid or pus).

3.

Is the Common Cold a Cold Sinus or an Allergy?

Common cold persists for three to 14 days, whereas allergy persists for days to months or as long as the individual communicates with the allergy stimulus. Common cold usually occurs in the winter but is attainable at any time. In distinction, allergies can occur at any period of the year. Common cold signs take a few days to occur after illness with the virus. In distinction allergy, signs can start instantly after communication with allergy stimuli. Pains are infrequently present with the cold but never with allergies. Runny, scratchy eyes are infrequent with the cold but usually with allergies.

4.

What to Consider From the Common Cold?

The common cold is a kind of rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) classified as contagious rhinitis. Fit individuals can predict two or three cold episodes each year. Babies and youngsters may be influenced by it.

5.

Is the Common Cold the Most Familiar Disease?

The common cold is a considerably common human disease and impacts individuals worldwide. Grown-ups generally have two to three infections yearly, and youngsters may have six to ten cold episodes yearly.

6.

Is Cold a Chronic Infection?

The common cold is an acute, self-determining viral illness of the upper respiratory tract affecting the nose, sinuses, pharynx, and larynx. The virus is disseminated by hand communication with discharge from an infected individual (direct or indirect) or aerosol of the discharge and virus. The incubation time differs but is merely under two days for rhinovirus. A manifestation that typically connects to the infected mucosa normally rises at 1 to 3 days and stays 7 to 10 days, although they occasionally persist for three weeks.

7.

Do Allergies Count as Disease?

Allergic disease is one of the world's most familiar chronic health illnesses. Individuals with a family record of allergies have an advanced risk of conceiving allergic diseases. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), eczema (dry, scratchy, inflamed skin), hives (skin rash), asthma (airways constrict and swell and make additional mucus), and food allergy are some varieties of allergic diseases.

8.

What Are Allergic Diseases?

Allergic illnesses are immune-mediated disorders primarily caused by an immunoglobulin E-dependent response to a harmless environmental allergen. According to the area of communication with the allergen, various clinical indications may evolve in the airways, skin, or gastrointestinal system. Allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose), atopic dermatitis (dry, scratchy, inflamed skin), and asthma (airways constrict and swell and make additional mucus) are the most significant overall regular immunological disorders that influence youngsters and grown-ups.

9.

How to Cure a Common Cold?

Medicine for the common cold contains Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) and Ibuprofen for fever or ache, antitussives for cough, decongestant nasal sprays, and eye drops to reduce itching and watering.
Home treatments that help reduce the signs of the common cold are as follows:
- Consume plenty of liquids like fluid, water, and herbal tea
- Avoid liquor and caffeine as they cause dehydration.
- Gargle with salt water.
- Consume warm drinks.
- Utilize the cool, moist humidifier.
- Utilize nasal rinses.
- Nasal sprays.

10.

How Long Does a Cold Last?

Common cold lasts for 3 to 14 days. Normally for most grownups, the signs of a cold stay for approximately 7 to ten days. A cold can stay longer in youngsters, up to two weeks. On average, kids get more colds in a year than grownups. While an average grownup may get two to four cold episodes in a year, children may get between six to eight episodes.

11.

How to Manage Sinus Allergies?

Avoidance is the most useful method of action for mild allergies and pet allergies. Some self-help and medication treatments are:
- Irrigating the nasal passages with saline nasal sprays may deliver some comfort.
- Inhaling steam may relieve nasal congestion.
- Decongestants (over-the-counter medications are available) may deliver some comfort.
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays may decrease inflammation.
- Desensitization via allergy shots (exposure to the allergen) may help kids with pollen-exposed allergies.
- Over-the-counter pain medications can deliver comfort.
- For severe bacterial conditions, antibiotics are needed.
- When self-help and medication actions are inadequate, and the allergic sinusitis signs hamper the quality of life, chronic allergic sinusitis is treated with surgery.

12.

Why Do an Individual Keep Catching Colds?

There are around 200 available viruses that can induce the common cold, So even if an individual had a cold earlier, the immune system likely has not made protection against every virus that causes a cold if an individual is around plenty of individuals who are ill. During the extremely cold season, an individual may be exposed to more ill individuals in public areas, such as employment, academy, public transit, and shops. The exposure can also rise with close communication with kids because kids have not completely formed an immune reaction to the viruses. The kids interact with different kids with watery noses who sneeze or cough without adequately protecting their mouths.

13.

Is Common Cold a Genetic Disease?

Scientists have recognized an infrequent genetic mutation that results in a markedly raised exposure to illness by human rhinoviruses (HRVs), the leading reason for the common cold. As a result, colds contribute to approximately 18 billion upper respiratory infections globally each year.

14.

Why Can’t an Individual Get Rid of a Cold?

If an individual is not taking enough sleep, sleep assists in maintaining the immune system functioning as it should. An individual must acquire adequate sleep to enable the body to combat the virus. Take extra sleep for the first three days. If an individual is not taking enough fluids, dehydration will delay his recovery. Constant tension makes the body less capable of reacting to cortisol, a hormone that regulates the body’s reaction to dangers like the virus that induces the common cold.

Last reviewed at:
23 Sep 2022  -  4 min read

RATING

16

Tags:

Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers


My allergy does not subside with 10 mg Cetirizine. Should I take 20 mg?

Query: Hi doctor, I have been taking 10 mg Singulair and 10 mg Cetirizine for five years for allergies, asthma, and Lyme. I just got two more kittens, and the medicines do not work anymore. I am miserable and desperate. I asked my doctor to give me 20 mg of Cetirizine and something else because I think ...  Read Full »

Have allergy problems. I always have runny nose or sore throat or excessive sneezing and coughing and cannot breathe normally.

Query: Hello, I have been having allergy problems for many years. I cannot breathe from my nose even if it is not blocked because I feel like I get less oxygen from my nose. I also have asthma and as the seasons change my allergies react. I always have running nose or sore throat or excessive sneezing and ...  Read Full »

Why are my teeth extremely sensitive to cold food?

Query: Hello doctor, I had my filling two years ago and it has been going well for a few months. I have had no problem with it but recently anything really cold touches it and I get a sharp pain. Hot foods cause no problem and sometimes it just hurts by itself.  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Allergy or Stress?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.