• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: Is it a cold or allergies?

March 8, 2018

If you tend to get cold symptoms that develop suddenly and occur at the same time every year, you might have seasonal allergies. Although colds and allergies share some symptoms, they are very different.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Arveen Bhasin, a Mayo Clinic allergist, explains how to determine if it’s a cold or an allergy.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:05) is in the downloads. Read the script.

While flowers are blooming and birds are chirping, you may wonder what's got you honking.

"There are many different ways to distinguish between a cold and allergies," says Dr. Bhasin.

According to Dr. Bhasin, a temperature is one tipoff to a patient's spring cold.

"They will often feel warm on exam because they have a low-grade fever," she says. "You're not going to see a fever in a patient who's got allergy symptoms."

But the patient likely will complain about itchy, watery eyes. It's an allergic response to something in the air. Pollen, mold spores and pet dander all can be triggers.

"It's our reaction to that allergen that then triggers the release of histamine and other mediators that causes the itching and the running, and the sneezing and the congestion," says Dr. Bhasin.

While cold symptoms typically will clear up after a week to 10 days, allergy problems can linger like pollen in the wind. If over-the-counter medications don't bring relief, Dr. Bhasin suggests making an appointment with an allergist.

"They could skin test you to figure out exactly what it is you're allergic to," says Dr. Bhasin.

And, hopefully, find a way to stop the honking.

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