"I'm not getting sick, I'm not getting sick, I'm not getting sick." That was my mantra at the end of last week as I was sniffling my way through tissues and coughing. Scratchy throat? Yep. Itchy eyes? Yep. I suffer from seasonal allergies, but, since so many of my friends had colds in their households, I was afraid I had caught one. Especially since school just started, and all those little germs just love hanging out in schools so they can spread out!

Thankfully, my symptoms weren't from a cold, but from allergies. But, how can you tell the difference, when they are so similar? I broke the cardinal rule of Googling my symptoms. I have been reminded over and over not to do that, because, invariably I will end up with a list of conditions that I could not have caught. Take any conditions to your medical professional, they can usually steer you in the right direction.

So, is it a cold? Or is it allergies? According to WebMD.com:

It could be a cold if:

  • You have a cough, low fever, headache, or mild body aches. Coughing, a fever, and achiness aren't problems you usually see with allergies. The exception to the rule: Allergies can sometimes trigger a cough from post-nasal drip or if you have asthma.
  • Your symptoms change every few days. You may start out with a fever and stuffy nose, then have a sore throat for a few days, or get a cough or sinus pain before getting better.
  • Your mucus becomes yellow, green, or thick. As immune cells fight back against the cold virus, they can make your mucus discolored or thick.

It's more likely to be allergies if:

  • Your mucus is clear or watery.
  • Your eyes are itchy or watery. It's rare to have itchy eyes when you have a cold.
  • Your symptoms stay the same. The symptoms can be intense for the first couple of days, but, the symptoms will stay the same day after day.
  • You've had the sniffles for more than a week. A cold usually clears up in 7 to 10 days, but allergies can last several weeks or longer.
  • Your symptoms show up only in certain situations. The time of year is a big deal, Spring and Fall bring out seasonal allergies. Pet dander can bring on the sniffles as well.

You should, of course, see your doctor, or other health care professional if you are running a high fever, having trouble breathing, or the symptoms last more than 10 days. You can also read more about colds vs. allergies at Mayo's website. Stock up on the tissues, regardless of the diagnosis, you will most likely be needing them.