sneezingNo one likes being sick especially in the summer. A fever, runny nose, or persistent cough can not just put a damper on a beach or fishing trip fast, it is exceedingly frustrating too. After all, colds are only supposed to strike when it’s cold, right?

The truth is that colds can strike anytime and the same goes for allergies. Yes, colds are more prevalent during the winter months for several reasons:

  • The viral strains which are active in the winter are more aggressive.
  • When the weather is cold, people tend to spend more time indoors, allowing these viruses to fester and spread from person to person.
  • However, a cold virus can be caught 12 months out of the year, and yes, it is still called a “cold” even if the temperature outside exceeds 90 degrees.

When it comes to allergies, people tend to associate them with the springtime because of things like pollen, but there are potential allergens in the air all year long. During the summer months, grass clippings and various types of weeds are just a couple of examples of things to which many are allergic.

When symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, or a runny nose strike in the summer, it can be difficult to discern whether it’s a summer allergy or a summer cold. It goes without saying that determining the cause of your symptoms is the most important step in figuring out how to deal with them.

Here are a few questions which will help you determine whether you are inflicted with a summer cold or summer allergies.

Have Your Symptoms Evolved
Cold symptoms often start out mild, such as a scratchy throat, then gradually build until they reach the point where you have a fever, clogged sinuses, a persistent sneeze, the whole nine yards. After a day or two, these symptoms begin to abate until they are gone completely. The entire process usually doesn’t take much longer than a week.

With summer allergies, the symptoms are typically much more consistent and do not change or evolve from day to day.

How Long Have You Been Sick
As mentioned above, a cold, no matter what time of year it strikes, usually runs its course in about a week–two weeks at the most. Allergies, on the other hand, tend to persist for as long as the allergens which are responsible are in the air.

  • If you have been experiencing the same symptoms for two weeks or longer, it is likely that summer allergies, not a summer cold, are the cause.

What Is The Nature Of Your Symptoms
Yes, colds and allergies produce similar symptoms, but there are often subtle differences which can point to one or the other.

  • Colds are more likely to be accompanied by a fever and sore throat, while allergies tend to involve more sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

Do Your Symptoms Get Better Or Worse With A Change In Environment
Cold symptoms are caused by a virus inside your body, while allergies are a result of external factors.

  • If you fly from Indiana to Arizona and your symptoms suddenly improve, it is almost a certainty that you are allergic to something in Indiana.
  • If your symptoms are the result of a cold, traveling to another state or climate will not have this effect. Rather, your symptoms will lessen as the virus runs its course and is gradually purged from your body.

Whether the cause is a cold or allergies, being sick in the summer can be very frustrating as it can put the brakes on what should be a fun time of year. However, identifying the root of the problem allows you to take the necessary steps to solve it. Answering the above questions should lead you to the guilty party, whether that be a summer cold or summer allergies.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP