How can you tell what is making you miserable—a cold or allergies? Follow your nose—or what’s coming out of it.

Allergies usually cause a runny nose with clear discharge, while a cold or flu will produce more of a yellow mucus. Some of the symptoms are similar—cough, scratchy throat and a runny or stuffed nose—and can occur with both colds and allergies. But cold symptoms take a few days to develop and usually go away in seven to 10 days. Allergy symptoms start immediately when you are exposed to the allergen and continue for as long as you continue to be exposed.

Timing makes a difference, too. Colds are more common in cold winter weather. Allergies can happen year-round when you are exposed to a particular allergen. Fevers are pretty uncommon with both colds and allergies. So if you have cold-like symptoms and a fever, you might have the flu. If the symptoms don’t get better in a few days or continue to worsen, see a doctor.

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