Your nose is running, your throat is scratchy and you can’t stop sneezing. You’ve probably got a cold, right? Maybe not. Though fall is typically when outbreaks of the cold virus occur in Canada, it’s also the season for hay fever, known as seasonal allergic rhinitis or SAR, which causes similar symptoms.
Blame it on weed pollen (including ragweed, but not goldenrod), which triggers most flare-ups when it spreads between mid-August and mid-October. Outdoor mould (found in soil, especially near lakes, ponds and fallen leaves) can also be a culprit, says Dr. William Berger, a clinical professor in the division of allergy and immunology at the University of California, Irvine.
Is it a cold or allergies?
If you don’t see an allergist, it can be tough to know the real cause of your sniffles, even for long-time allergy sufferers. Here’s how to tell if you’re suffering from a cold or allergies.
If it’s a cold:
- Symptoms last three to 14 days
- You may have body aches and a low fever
- Nasal secretions may be yellow or green
If it’s allergies:
- Symptoms last several weeks or months (many allergy sufferers have low-grade nasal congestion year-round, which gets worse in the fall and spring)
- You won’t have a fever
- Nasal secretions are clear
According to Brent Ruddock, a senior pharmacist at Canada’s Drug Information and Research Centre, you’re most likely to develop SAR if one or both of your parents suffer from it. If you have other allergies, such as allergic asthma, eczema or food allergies, that can also increase your risk.
Some naturopathic doctors, such as Toronto-based Natasha Turner, believe digestive problems and stress can cause immune system dysfunction, which makes SAR worse.
Do you think it’s allergies? Read more to find the best remedies for allergies. And if you have a cold, read these 10 tips to help you recover from a cold, faster.