Common cold
Do see your GP if any allergy or cold symptoms don’t get better. (Photo: Pixabay)


People always tend to assume the worst. Very often when someone has the sniffles, others assume that they are contagious. But it could be something else altogether. Contrary to popular belief, a congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing, are also signs of allergies. Know the difference so you can find the right relief fast.

The Common Cold

There are actually more than 100 different types of cold viruses. So while symptoms and severity may vary, the basic characteristics remain.

  1. Cough
  2. Sore throat
  3. Runny, stuffy nose
  4. Fever (may or may not be present)
  5. Body ache (may or may not be present)
  6. Sneezing and itchy eyes (less common)
  7. Headache (may or may not be present)

Symptoms of the cold/flu usually resolve after 10-14 days but symptoms of allergic rhinitis (AR) may persist day after day as long as the allergen is present.

Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis (AR) also known as hay fever, is a condition affecting up to 13.1 per cent of Singapore adults. It primarily affects the nasal passages as a result of the immune system over-reacting to certain substances, known as allergens. This results in a wide range of symptoms that affect the person’s quality of life and overall health.

  1. Sneezing that is sudden and happens repeatedly
  2. Runny nose with clear discharge
  3. Itchy nose
  4. Blocked nose
  5. Cough and sore throat due to post-nasal drip
  6. Allergic conjunctivitis (itchiness, tearing, and/or burning of both eyes)

Dr Eng Soh Ping, Elliot, Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon at ASCENT Ear Nose Throat Specialist Group (based in Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia & Parkway East Medical Centres), in partnership with Fullerton Health Network Specialist, says, “Severe symptoms can include recurrent nasal bleeding, severe sneezing and runny nose which affects one’s quality of life, or a blocked nose without other nasal symptoms.”

While some of the symptoms of allergies and colds are similar, these are two very different health conditions. Any allergy or cold symptoms that don’t get better with treatment should be looked at by your doctor to rule out any possible infections.