Is It Allergies or Is It Something Else?

Learn what sets allergy symptoms apart from a common cold or other illnesses.

The signs and symptoms of allergies, common colds, and other illnesses can have many similarities—making it difficult to figure out how to best relieve your symptoms. But there are a few ways to identify which is which and continue living your greatness, by understanding the most common allergy symptoms to look out for.1

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Experiencing symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and nasal congestion can point to various problems—including seasonal allergies, the flu, a common cold, or a variety of other illnesses. But with so many similar symptoms, how do you know if it’s allergies or something else? To answer this question, it's important to first understand how to pinpoint the most common allergy symptoms when they arise.1

What Are Allergies?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 50 million Americans are affected by different types of allergies. Allergies are a bodily reaction that occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance  (allergen), sparking an allergic reaction. There can be many possible causes for this, from something you eat to a substance you touch, come into contact with, or inhale into your lungs.1,2,3

First and foremost, realizing that you have allergies is a very important first step in order to manage them long-term. This way, you can take into account that symptoms (for example, sneezing and itchy nose) tend to manifest whenever you’re in contact with allergens—like pollen, pet dander, and mold spores. Once an allergist or doctor determines that someone suffers from an allergy, that individual can then follow the appropriate treatment strategies, as directed by their healthcare provider.1,2,3

Below, we’re explaining the most common allergy symptoms, as well as the indicators of possible COVID-19 and common cold cases that may also share similar symptoms. By understanding some of these key differentiations, it’s possible to identify the best ways to treat each problem under a doctor's supervision. Remember: Only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose allergies or any other illness, and recommend the proper treatment plan for your individual needs.1,2,3 

Symptoms: Allergies, the Common Cold, and COVID-19

Allergies, the common cold, and COVID-19 may have similar symptoms in some cases. As soon as you notice any changes in your health, it's essential to seek timely medical attention for a proper diagnosis. To help you expand your knowledge, we’ve highlighted some symptoms for each of these conditions and their common symptoms below—based on a 2021 ARIA-EAACI study group of 87 questionnaires.1,4​​​​​​​

Symptoms of allergies

   Most prevalent: Sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchy nose.
   Prevalent: Runny nose.
   Common: Itchy eyes and eye redness.
   Sometimes, in the cases of asthma: Shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
   Rare: Impaired sense of smell and sore throat.
   Very rare: Impaired sense of taste.
   Symptoms that do not appear: Sinus pain and eye pain.1,4,5

Symptoms of the common cold

  Always: Runny nose and nasal congestion.
  Common: Sneezing, cough, and sore throat.
  Sometimes: Sinus pain and loss of smell.
  Rare: Impaired sense of taste, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
  Symptoms that do not appear: Itchy nose, itchy eyes, eye pain, and eye redness.1,4,5

Symptoms of COVID-19

  Possible: Sinus pain, eye pain, and eye redness.
  Relatively common: Shortness of breath and cough.
  Not uncommon: Nasal congestion (mild when present), impaired sense of smell, impaired sense of taste, wheezing, and sore throat.
  Very rare: Runny nose and sneezing.
  Symptoms that don’t appear: Itching in the nose and eyes.1,4,5

What Are Some Common Types of Respiratory Allergies?

Respiratory allergy symptoms tend to manifest themselves whenever there is contact with an allergen. Your immune system considers these allergens as enemies, and it launches an immune response to defend itself. This immune response is characterized by the release of histamines, which results in allergy-related symptoms.5 

Have you ever stopped to think about the most prevalent respiratory allergens that affect the human body? Many substances exist that, when inhaled, trigger an inflammatory immune response. Keep reading to discover some of the most common types of respiratory allergies.

1. Pet allergies

Did you know that approximately 3 in 10 allergy sufferers in the United States experience an allergic reaction to dogs or cats? People with pet allergies may have overly sensitive immune systems, which trigger an allergic reaction to harmless proteins present in animal urine, saliva, or pet dander (dead skin cells). This can cause itching in the eyes or nose, nasal congestion, and even skin redness. Consulting with a doctor for allergy testing is essential to confirm whether or not someone truly has a pet allergy.6​​​​​​

2. Mold allergies

There are many types of mold that can cause allergies in humans. Mold and mildew stains in humid parts of the house (like walls or closet interiors) can contain mold spores. When someone with allergies inhales mold spores, it's common for hay fever symptoms to occur—such as sneezing, itching in the eyes and nose, runny nose, and nasal congestion.3

3. House dust mite allergies

Allergies to house dust are usually worse inside the house and are triggered by dust mites—microscopic bugs that thrive in humid and hot environments. This problem can provoke asthma or eczema in some cases. The most common symptoms of dust allergies can include sneezing, runny nose, and itchy/watery eyes.7​​​​​​

How To Manage Respiratory Allergies

The first step to limiting allergy symptoms is avoiding exposure to allergens, such as pet dander, dust, and mold spores. In addition, it can help to keep your home well-ventilated, clean, dry, and full of sunlight. Another key measure for allergy fighters is to consult with a doctor or allergist for efficient treatment with the use of oral antihistamines, such as Allegra®.5

Allegra® Allergy is here to help.

Life shouldn’t be spent waiting for your allergy symptoms to pass. Allegra® Allergy offers long-lasting (24- and 12-hour), effective, non-drowsy relief for allergy symptoms. Live your greatness and stay on top of symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and nasal congestion or sinus pressure.* 

With a comprehensive range of products, you’re sure to find the one that works best for your indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms. No matter which product you choose, you can feel good knowing Allegra® Allergy is the #1 allergist recommended brand for non-drowsy allergy relief.

Find the Allegra® product that’s right for you


2. Allergy Facts and Figures.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Updated April 2021.

3. “Mold Allergy.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Updated October 2015.

4. Hagemann, Jan, et al. “Differentiation of COVID‐19 Signs and Symptoms from Allergic Rhinitis and Common Cold: An ARIA‐EAACI‐GA 2 LEN Consensus.” Allergy, vol. 76, no. 8, 2021, pp. 2354–66. Crossref, doi:10.1111/all.14815.

5. Nawaz Z, Pullen F, Rivera-Mariani FE, Rizvi SAA, Sanchez-Gonzalez MA, Smollar M, et al. “Spring is Here, Now What? Know the Difference Between a Cold, Flu, Coronavirus and Allergy.” Emerg Infect Dis Diag J. 2020; EIDDJ-100010.

6. Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Updated October 2015.

7. Dust Allergy.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Updated February 2018.

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*Allegra is indicated to relieve sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and itchy nose or throat. Allegra-D is indicated to relieve sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose or throat, nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and reduce swelling of the nasal passages.

Among single-ingredient branded OTC oral antihistamines and OTC multi-ingredient allergy & decongestant brands.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice. Allegra should be used as directed according to the product label. If you suspect that you have allergies, consult with your doctor or an allergist. Only they can make a proper diagnosis.