Allergy symptoms may include the following:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • itchy throat, nose, roof of the mouth
  • itchy, watery or red eyes
  • congestion

Although allergies and colds have similar symptoms, there are some telltale signs that can help you differentiate between them. If you aren't sure whether you have allergies or just a cold, ask your health professional. Your pharmacist or doctor can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

Table 1. Is it an allergy or a cold?
Symptoms Allergies Colds
Fever Usually none Rarely
Nasal discharge Watery and clear Thick and coloured
Sneezing Yes Yes
Cough Rarely Yes
Duration of symptoms Weeks to months Usually a week

Experts think that 1-2% of Canadians have serious allergies to food, insects, medications, latex, and exercise. These allergies are potentially life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention. A person experiencing a serious allergic reaction may have difficulty breathing, throat swelling, skin redness or itching, and an irregular heartbeat or palpitations. In most cases, it is recommended that people with an identified serious allergy wear a MedicAlert bracelet and carry an EpiPen® or Twinject®, which is an injection device that contains epinephrine. A recent study showed that two out of three parents were unsure of how to use their child's epinephrine injection device, and almost half did not even carry their epinephrine injection with them at all times. If you or a family member have a serious allergy, talk to your pharmacist or doctor, and make sure you know how to recognize all the signs of a potentially life-threatening reaction so that you know exactly what to do if the time ever comes.