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Allergies vs. Colds: A Doctor Shares Common Symptoms

Here's how to tell if you have allergy or virus symptoms

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Are you sneezing and coughing a lot this time of year?

For many people, it's hard to tell the difference between seasonal allergies, the common cold and the flu. Here’s a look at the similarities and the key differences:

Allergy Symptoms

Kaiser Permanente Dr. Troy Baker said allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer due to climate change. People may already experience the common allergy symptoms, Baker said.

“With allergies, itchiness is a big component, their eyes itch, their nose itches and there's a lot of sneezing too,” he said.

While people often suffer from seasonal allergies, it's not the only thing to consider.

“The trees are going to come out February to around June, grass is the next to come out,” he said. “May is the big grass month, that’s probably when it's going to be the worst this year.”

Allergies can last several weeks and be treated with antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and saline solution.

People who have seasonal allergies typically have the same symptoms pop up and go away around the same time each year, according to Dr. Baker.

Virus Symptoms

Even though flu season peaks in the winter, cases can last through May. That's in addition to other respiratory viruses circulating.

“With viruses, there are some unique differences. People who get viruses may have body aches, fever, chills,” he said. “They can have GI symptoms that are not characteristic of allergies, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and they just feel a lot of fatigue.”

For adults, the common cold typically lasts five to seven days and can be treated with pain relievers, decongestants, fluids and a lot of rest.

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