Symptoms and Signs of Hay Fever vs. Cold

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 6/3/2019

Doctor's Notes on Hay Fever vs. Cold

Hay fever (outdoor allergies or allergic rhinitis) is a condition that causes sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, postnasal drip, watery or bloodshot appearing eyes, fatigue, trouble sleeping, itching of the nose, eyes, and/or ears. Common colds have similar symptoms but may also include sore throat, sinus pressure, and swelling of lymph nodes around the neck and ears.

The cause of hay fever is the body's immune response (allergic reaction) to foreign material (allergens) usually present in the air you breathe. The cause of a common cold is one or more types of infectious cold-causing viruses that are very contagious. Hay fever is not contagious, and these viral types do not cause colds. Colds usually last about 5-10 days, while hay fever can last as long as the allergens are present in the air (months).


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.