Colds and hay fever do have many similar symptoms which can make it difficult to tell the two conditions apart but there are some notable differences to your health.

It is estimated that 10 millions Brits experience hay fever each year / Photo credit: Unsplash
It is estimated that 10 millions Brits experience hay fever each year / Photo credit: Unsplash

A cold is caused by a virus but there are many different types of viruses that are responsible for colds. Cold symptoms and severity do vary but all colds generally share basic features.

Despite its name, you can get a cold at any time of the year, even in summer but it is more frequent in the winter months. It is most common in children who experience an average of 5–8 colds per year but adults do experience an average of 2–3 colds per year.

Hay fever is associated with an over sensitive immune response to usually harmless substances. When you’re exposed to an allergy trigger, known as an allergen, your immune system releases multiple chemicals called histamine which is what causes hay fever symptoms.

Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions and it is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with hay fever in England.

Hay fever allergens include tree, grass, and weed pollen. As 70% of our immune system is located in the gut and influenced by the diversity of our gut microbes, the severity of symptoms could be linked with the health of our digestive system and therefore taking a live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult original may be beneficial.

Hay fever and colds share many symptoms: a blocked or runny nose; sneezing; watery or red eyes; headaches; loss of smell and feeling tired or fatigued. A cold, however, can also include a sore throat, coughing, a raised temperature, aches and pains, loss of taste and pressure in your ears or face. Generally, the main difference between the two is itchiness as hay fever usually involves itchy eyes, an itchy throat, mouth, nose or ears.

There are also differences in duration of symptoms. A cold usually lasts one to two weeks, whilst hay fever can last for weeks or months, depending on the trigger; the higher the pollen count, the worse the symptoms will be and the longer they can last.

Another difference is that a cold is contagious via virus droplets when coughing or sneezing but hay fever is not.

Hay Fever symptoms:

- Itchy eyes

- Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears

- Earache

- Wheezing

Hay fever is more common March-September when pollen count is high, especially in warm, humid and windy conditions.

Common Cold symptoms:

- Aches and pains

- Sore throat

- A raised temperature

- Loss of taste

- Pressure in ears and face

- Cough

A cold can appear any time of year but more common in the winter months.

Similarities between hay fever and a cold:

- Sneezing

- Blocked or runny nose

- Watery, red eyes

- Headaches

- Loss of smell

- Fatique

Written by Bio-Kult’s technical advisor, Andrea Burton. For more information, visit:

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