What is the difference between colds and allergies?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,185
    Ronald Turner, MD of the University of Virginia explains the difference between colds and allergies.

    Dr. Ronald Turner

    Ronald Turner, MD, is Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Dr. Turner earned his MD degree from Southern Illinois University and did his training in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Columbus Children’s Hospital (Ohio State University) and the University of Virginia. He subsequently served in faculty positions at the University of Utah and the Medical University of South Carolina. In addition to his administrative role at the University of Virginia, Dr. Turner has clinical care and teaching responsibilities in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. His research interests are directed at the pathogenesis and treatment of viral respiratory infections.

    Host: What is the difference between the colds and allergies?

    Ronald Turner: The differences between cold and allergies really first start with the way that they are caused. The cold is caused by an infectious agent, a virus. Allergies are caused by allergic reaction to in a material that is in the environment and so, the mechanism of the two diseases is different. The symptoms are really quite comparable. So, runny nose, sneezing, cough, those things are all associated with both colds and allergies.

    But the allergies tend to be a little different in the sense that there tends to be more itching of the nose and the eyes associated with allergies, you can have some redness of the eyes associated with allergies, sneezing tends to be a more prominent symptom with allergies and the progression of the symptoms tends to be a little different. With colds you start with your illness, it becomes worse over a day or two and then it starts to get better. With allergies, it tends to start very quickly and be as severe as it is going to be and then stay that way after as long as you exposed to the allergen. So, the course of the illness is also a little different.