I seem to get a cold every spring and fall. I'm wondering if these "colds" are really seasonal allergies. How can I tell?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

If you tend to get "colds" that develop suddenly and occur at the same time every year, it's possible that you actually have seasonal allergies. Although colds and seasonal allergies may share some of the same symptoms, they are very different diseases.

Common colds are caused by viruses, while seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens.

Treatment of a common cold may include rest, pain relievers and over-the-counter cold remedies, such as decongestants. A cold usually lasts three to 10 days, although some may last as long as two weeks.

Treatment of seasonal allergies may include over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants, and avoidance of exposure to allergens where possible. Seasonal allergies may last several weeks.

Symptom check: Is it a cold or allergy?
Based on National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2014
Symptom Cold Allergy
Cough Usually Sometimes
General aches and pains Sometimes Never
Fatigue and weakness Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy eyes Rarely Usually
Sneezing Usually Usually
Sore throat Usually Rarely
Runny nose Usually Usually
Stuffy nose Usually Usually
Fever Rarely Never
Dec. 24, 2014 See more Expert Answers