Summer Sneezes: Is It A Cold Or An Allergy?

Michelle Hopkins

Warm summer breezes should not bring nasty summer sneezes, but the truth is that runny noses, congestion, and watery eyes can haunt you at any time. Sometimes these symptoms mean you have a cold or an upper respiratory infection, or you may be experiencing the joy of seasonal allergies. You need to know the difference so that you can seek the correct treatment.


Although the symptoms of both conditions are similar, including post-nasal drip, congestion, and a scratchy throat, a few of them differ. Having a fever and feeling achy indicate a cold and do not occur with allergies. A change from clear mucus to a yellow or otherwise discolored state also means you are dealing with something other than an allergic condition.

Allergy symptoms can strike immediately upon exposure to a specific allergen. If you go outside and symptoms attack, then pollen is probably the cause. In contrast, colds take several days to develop after exposure to the virus. Also, colds only last three to fourteen days. If you have respiratory symptoms after that time period, you should see a doctor. You likely have allergies or some sort of infection.  


Time is the best treatment for a cold. You may use over-the-counter nasal sprays and saline rinses to treat congestion and lozenges for your scratchy throat. In general, the recommendation is to rest, stay hydrated, and take acetaminophen as directed. Other OTC remedies may ease your discomfort, but taking too many too often can harm you.

For allergies, the treatment may include taking antihistamines, drugs that block the allergic reaction your boy has to histamines. You may choose from a variety of these products, but be aware that some cause drowsiness. Other treatments include nasal sprays, saline sprays, eye drops and decongestants. For those with severe symptoms, skin testing may be in order so that immunotherapy can be administered.


Pregnant women have to treat both conditions more carefully because not all OTC medications are safe for them, especially in the first trimester. Talk with a medical professional at a place like Mile High OB GYN  if you have questions about what medicine is acceptable for you, though the following drugs have generally been found safe to take during pregnancy:

For allergy:

  • diphenhydramine

  • loratadine

For colds:

  • acetaminophen

  • Saline sprays or drops

  • Salt water gargle

When you feel the sneezes coming on in the summer, determine whether you are dealing with a cold or allergies and treat your symptoms accordingly. If you have undiagnosed problems for over two weeks, see your doctor.