How to differentiate between allergic rhinitis and a cold

Maternal and child health

How to Differentiate Between Allergic Rhinitis and a Cold


Allergic rhinitis and the common cold are both respiratory conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and congestion. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions that can help you tell them apart.


The symptoms of allergic rhinitis and the common cold can overlap, but there are some key differences.

Allergic rhinitis is caused by an allergic reaction to something in the environment, such as pollen, dust, or pet dander. Symptoms typically occur when you are exposed to the allergen and can include:

Runny nose



Itchy, watery eyes

Nasal congestion

Post-nasal drip


The common cold is caused by a virus. Symptoms typically develop 1-3 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

Runny nose



Sore throat


Body aches



Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis occurs during certain times of the year, such as when pollen is high. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs year-round.

The common cold typically lasts for 7-10 days.


The treatment for allergic rhinitis and the common cold depends on the underlying cause.

Allergic rhinitis is treated by avoiding the allergen that causes your symptoms. You may also need to take medication to relieve your symptoms. Medications for allergic rhinitis include:



Nasal corticosteroids

Leukotriene modifiers

The common cold is treated with over-the-counter medications to relieve your symptoms. These medications include:


Pain relievers

Cough suppressants

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if you have symptoms of allergic rhinitis or the common cold that do not improve after a week or two. You should also see a doctor if your symptoms are severe or if you have any other concerns.

Other Conditions

There are other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to allergic rhinitis and the common cold. These conditions include:

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. Symptoms can include a runny nose, congestion, and facial pain.

Nasal polyps are growths in the nose that can block the nasal passages. Symptoms can include a runny nose, congestion, and difficulty breathing.

A deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum is shifted to one side. This can block the nasal passages and cause difficulty breathing.

If you have any of these conditions, you should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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