Achoo! Is it a cold or an allergy?

With the arrival of spring comes the eternal question: “Do I have a cold or an allergy?”

The two conditions have similar symptoms, so telling them apart can be challenging. Knowing the difference, though, can help you find relief with the best treatment.

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance like pet dander or pollen. You may have allergies if your mucus is clear or watery; your eyes are itchy or watery; and you’ve had the sniffles for more than a week. Allergy symptoms tend to appear only in certain situations (you’re in a house with a dog) or at a specific time of the year (spring, summer or fall). Allergies can last several weeks or longer.

A cold is an infection caused by a virus. Colds typically occur in late fall or winter. Chances are you have a cold if the mucus becomes thick or discolored. Typical cold symptoms include a runny nose, congestion, cough and sore throat. A cold usually clears up in seven to 10 days.

It’s always best to check with your physician if symptoms persist.