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Here's How To Tell If Your Cold Is Actually Just A Nasty Case Of Fall Allergies

Have you been coughing up a lung into your Pumpkin Spice Latte? Are your eyes too watery to try out that cute fall eyeshadow palette you fell in love with at Sephora? Before you start blaming a cold for your discomfort, you might want to double-check your symptoms. The thing is, that sniffle you think is the first sign that you're coming down with a nasty cold? It might actually be a sign of fall allergies, because yes, allergies aren't just a spring thing. Unfortunately, those suckers can wreak havoc on your immune system when you least expect it.

According to Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy and Asthma Network, you might not even realize that you're dealing with allergy symptoms if you aren't sure what to look for. Allergies are much more common than you might think: According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans have some kind of allergy, which could be anything from food allergies to animal hair to latex. But, during the onset of fall, says Parikh, a seasonal, environment-based allergy could be to blame for your runny nose or persistent cough.

"Ragweed pollen is the major culprit in fall, which stays in [the] air until first frost," the allergist tells Elite Daily over email. But ragweed isn't the only one to blame for your suffering; mold could also be affecting you, Parikh adds. "Especially with hurricane and storm season, there are more leaks and water damage that cause mold indoors as well," she explains.

Usually the symptoms of allergies and the common cold are pretty similar, says Dr. Parikh, but one way to tell the difference is to pay attention to how long you've been feeling sick. If you've only been noticing signs for five to seven days, it's probably just a cold, she tells Elite Daily. Allergies, on the other hand, can last for weeks, unfortunately.

Of course, paying attention to the season also matters. "If you notice you get 'colds' every fall or spring, it's probably allergies and you should be tested," Dr. Parikh explains. Here are the signs to watch out for this fall.

Itchy, watery eyes

One warning sign that you might be reacting to an allergen instead of just a bug that's going around is how your eyes feel. Itchy symptoms in general are more likely to be caused by an allergy than a cold, says Dr. Parikh.

A cold, the allergist explains, will probably be accompanied by a higher fever than allergies, so if your temperature reaches 101 degrees Fahrenheit or above, be sure to get in touch with a doctor ASAP, because you're likely coming down with something more than just allergies.

Congested or runny nose

Sorry to get a little gross here, but one sure way to know if you have an allergy or just a cold is to take a close look at your mucus. Dr. Parikh explains that a runny nose could be an allergy sign, but the kind of discharge your body is producing could explain even more.

"In the beginning, both colds and allergies will cause a clear, liquid mucus,” David Rosenstreich, M.D., director of the division of allergy and immunology in the department of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York, told Health. He explained that, as the symptoms progress, a cold will produce "a thicker, yellow mucus, whereas usually with allergies mucus always stays clear and watery."

A nasty cough

If you're experiencing shortness of breath, Dr. Parikh says you should be extra careful not to ignore this sign. "If you are having any breathing abnormalities such as cough, wheeze, or shortness of breath, don't take it lightly," she warns. "See a board-certified physician — you likely need an inhaler."

Because allergic asthma causes 10 deaths a day (yes, really), Parikh says, seeking expert advice is crucial.

Eczema or hives

Sometimes, Dr. Parikh explains, your body might react to allergies with a skin rash like eczema or hives. If you notice this sign, be sure to check in with your own doctor to see what the best way to treat the rash is, though Healthline says that antihistamines should be able to soothe your itchy feels.

As for how to treat the rest of your fall allergy symptoms, Parikh says there are plenty of options that'll make autumn a bit more manageable overall. "For nasal symptoms, nasal steroid or nasal antihistamine sprays work best," she tells Elite Daily, adding that your doctor could also recommend a long-acting antihistamine.

No matter what treatment route you end up taking, understanding the culprit behind your symptoms is sure to help you feel your best so you can get back to enjoying your PSLs in peace.