I Can’t Stop Sneezing: Common Cold or Allergies?

By Brian Byrne

It’s that time of year when your nose turns red, you can’t stop sniffling, and everywhere you go you carry hand sanitizer: it’s the common cold season. Seemingly, everyone during this time of year has the sniffles, keeping on-the-go Kleenex with them at all times. And, more likely than not, these people pass off their symptoms as just another cold, they believe it’s just another week of congestion, headaches and a sore throat. However, what if it wasn’t a cold? What if what was causing these symptoms was simply an allergy?

A cold is an infection caused by a virus, and they are more common in the colder months because it is easier for germs to spread when we are snuggled up to stay warm! However, another common diagnosis in these colder months is allergies. An allergy is the immune system’s reaction to a substance that does not sit well with you. While in the spring and summer, pollen is the most common allergy; winter brings its own ammunition. Since it is during the colder months where we spend most of our time inside, our body has more time to react to dust mites, pet dander, and mold—three common allergies. So, how can you tell whether your symptoms are from a virus or an allergy?

According to the National Allergy Bureau, signs of an allergy can be:

• Clear mucus. Colored mucus is a quick way of telling if you have an infection.

• Itchy eyes. When your body encounters something you are

allergic to, it releases an arsenal of histamines—a chemical that causes inflammation and swelling. This causes the blood vessel in your eyes to swell, leading to itchiness.

• Long lasting sniffles. If your sniffles are lasting for more than a week, it might be due to allergies. A typical cold clears up within 7-10 days, whereas allergies can last for multiple weeks.

• Seasonal symptoms. If you find yourself sneezing more in the winter, or spring, or any particular time of year, this may mean your body is reacting to whatever is in abundance during that season.

• Redness/swelling. If any reddening or swelling occurs, this can be an indicator of an allergic reaction.

If you read this list and feel as if you could possibly have a seasonal allergy, set up an appointment with your local allergist. A discovery of a seasonal allergy can save you money, hours of sniffling, and embarrassment from blowing your nose every minute!