The Difference Between a Cold and Allergies and How to Treat Both

Jose Topacio

Woman having a cold

Because they’re both common afflictions and share plenty of symptoms, an allergy and a cold often get confused for one or the other. Fortunately, both are treatable at home. In fact, you can easily buy over-the-counter medicines from an online drugstore. However, you first have to know the difference between the two conditions so you know what kind of treatment you need.

Here are some things to keep in mind to help you identify and treat either or both an allergy and a cold:

What Is an Allergy?

An allergy is a condition in which the immune system overreacts to fight or get rid of something that isn’t really bad for the body. For example, pollen from plants and flowers isn’t really harmful. However, if you’re allergic to it, your immune system interprets pollen as an invader and releases histamine to protect the body.

Histamine is an organic compound produced mostly by white blood cells, particularly basophils and mast cells. It’s necessary for various physiological processes but, unfortunately, also causes plenty of symptoms associated with allergies like itching and sneezing.

What Is a Cold?

A cold is a contagious respiratory illness caused by more than 200 types of viruses. Most people will have about 2 to 3 colds per year; children may experience even more. Usually, you can get a cold by inhaling droplets in the air or by touching surfaces with viral droplets and then bringing your hand to your face, nose, or mouth. The latter is why one of the best ways to avoid a cold is to regularly wash your hands.

Some symptoms of a cold that are very much similar to an allergy include a runny or stuffy nose and sneezing.

What Is the Difference Between These Two Conditions?

One of the biggest differences between an allergy and a cold is that only one is contagious. An allergy is an immune response; it can be inherited from a parent, but it’s also possible for a child to develop an allergy even if their parent doesn’t. Meanwhile, because a cold is caused by a virus, it can be easily passed on to another person.

There are also a lot of differences when it comes to symptoms. For example, if your eyes are itchy and watery, you likely have an allergy and not a cold. On the other hand, a fever can sometimes accompany a cold but never an allergy (unless you also have an infection along with your allergy).

Additionally, if you have a sore throat and body aches, you most likely have a cold and not an allergy. You may also notice that the cooler months also bring about more cases of colds. This is because the viruses that cause colds linger in the air longer, so more people end up catching them. Meanwhile, allergies can happen at any time. As long as there’s a presence of an allergen, like pollen, pet dander, or mold, an allergy attack will usually follow.

Finally, a cold usually lasts for about 10 to 14 days while an allergy can disappear in just a few hours. As soon as the allergen is removed and the proper treatment is applied, allergy symptoms will fade. Do note that if your cold lasts for more than 14 days, it’s highly recommended to consult a doctor. It may not just be a cold you have, but rather another kind of infection. It’s also possible that you may develop complications due to a prolonged cold.

How Do You Treat an Allergy?

Treating an allergy requires two main actions: removing the allergens and addressing the symptoms. Common environmental allergens include dust, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and mold.

To minimize exposure to environmental allergens, make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the objects and areas that you or any person with allergies stay in most frequently. Careful attention must be given to beddings, as these can harbor hundreds or even thousands of dust mites.

For those with food allergies, it’s better to eat meals that you prepared yourself. If you want to eat out, it’s helpful to have an allergy card with you; consider calling ahead, too, so that the staff is aware of your allergies and make accommodations.

Of course, you should always be prepared with your allergy medicine. There are a variety of antihistamines available, but your doctor may have a recommendation that’s most suited for your condition. For those with food allergies or with severe allergies, always keep your injectables with you wherever you go.

How Do You Treat a Cold?

The key thing to remember about a cold is that it’s viral. Thus, you cannot and should not treat it with antibiotics. What you can do is take medicine to manage the symptoms you have. If you have a blocked nose, take a decongestant. If you’re experiencing headaches, take a pain reliever. In the meantime, make sure to eat right and get some rest. The cold should go away in about a week or so, faster if your immune system is healthy.

It can be difficult to treat a condition if you don’t fully understand it. If you’re ever confused about an allergy and a cold, use this as a reference so you can address your condition accordingly.

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6 Must-Have Items for Your Home First Aid Kit

Jessa Garcia



A first aid kit is a must for every home, so that you’re always prepared to handle accidents and minor injuries like cuts, bruises, or sprains. It also ensures that you can provide immediate treatment for minor illnesses like a cold, cough, or allergy.

While you can purchase a kit pre-filled with medical supplies, building your own lets you select specific items that suit your and your family’s needs. As you put together a home first aid kit, make sure to include the essential items listed below:

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Whether you have a headache, muscle strain, or stomach pain, there are over-the-counter medications you can rely on to manage your symptoms. These medicines can be easily purchased and don’t require a prescription. You can either get them from your local pharmacy or buy medicines online for your convenience. You also have the option to buy either branded or generic medicines.

Whatever you choose, remember to stock your first aid kit with these medications:

  • Ibuprofen – It is used to treat pain in the form of headaches, menstrual cramps, dental pains, muscle aches, and the like. It can also reduce fever and relieve minor symptoms associated with the common cold or flu. As a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen blocks the body’s production of substances that cause inflammation. 
  • Paracetamol – This is also used to treat various pains and reduce fever. Compared to ibuprofen, paracetamol doesn’t help in decreasing inflammation.  
  • Loperamide – It is taken to treat sudden diarrhea. It works by slowing the movement of the gut, which decreases the frequency of bowel movements and makes the stool less watery.
  • Antacids – They help relieve symptoms of heartburn, indigestion, or an upset stomach by neutralizing the acidity in the stomach.
  • Laxatives – These are used to help treat constipation. They work by loosening stools and increasing bowel movement.
  • Antihistamines – These are medications that help relieve symptoms of allergies like watery eyes, itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. They are also used to treat symptoms of allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, and the common cold.
  • Cold medications – These can be any medicines to help you relieve the symptoms of the common cold. Typically, you get nasal decongestants to help unclog stuffy nose or cough suppressants to control coughing. Also, include expectorants in your kit to loosen mucus in your lungs and make it watery enough so you can easily cough it up.
  • Throat lozenges – They help ease symptoms of sore throat.

Prescription Medication

If you or anyone in your household is taking prescription medications, make sure to keep at least a week’s worth of them in your home first aid kit. Keeping a small stock of your maintenance medications can be very useful in case you run out and can’t leave the house, especially during typhoons or similar emergencies. 

Wound Care Supplies

Some of the most common injuries you might experience in your home are cuts, scrapes, and burns. To ensure you’re ready to treat these minor injuries, stock your first aid kit with gauze pads, dressing pads, bandage rolls, micropore tape, and adhesive bandages. Make sure they are of varying sizes to cover different-sized wounds. 

Also, remember to put wound cleaning supplies in the kit such as antiseptic cleaning solution, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment. Additionally, keep a tube of hydrocortisone cream to ease any symptoms and discomfort caused by skin conditions like itching, swelling, insect bites, eczema, dermatitis, or skin allergies.


The normal body temperature ranges from 36.4 to 37.2 degrees Celsius. This can vary throughout the day, so this change isn’t something to be really concerned about. However, you need to watch out for any sudden elevation in body temperature as this may be an indication of an infection or illness. Keeping a thermometer in your home first aid kit allows you to easily check if you or other members of your household have a fever. This way, you can determine the next steps you need to take whether that may be taking over-the-counter medicines or seeking immediate treatment from a doctor.


Having a splinter or shard of glass stuck in your skin can be quite uncomfortable. It can also lead to an infection if you leave it for too long. If you have a pair of tweezers, you can quickly and safely remove stubborn splinters no matter how small they may be. Keeping tweezers in your first aid kit also means you can access them as soon as you need them instead of rummaging through the house to find them.

Hot and Cold Pack

While inside the house, you can accidentally slip, fall, or hit your head. These injuries can be painful but fortunately can be quickly remedied by a reusable hot or cold pack. Depending on what you need to ease the pain from the incident, you can warm or cool the pack. If you need something warm, you can submerge it into a pot of hot water until it has reached the desired temperature. In case you need an ice pack, put the pack in the freezer until it chills.

Whether you’re buying a first aid kit or building one for yourself and your family, make sure it has the must-have items mentioned above. These supplies can help you treat minor injuries and common illnesses. More importantly, having a stocked first aid kit in your home allows you to reduce the severity of any injury. 

Complete your first aid kit with health essentials online at Southstar Drug. Take advantage of our FREE delivery service if you purchase a total of Php 1,499 and up for Metro Manila, Rizal, and select areas in Pampanga, Cavite, and Batangas. For the remaining provinces, you may enjoy FREE delivery service for purchases worth Php 5,000 and up.

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