Navigating the seasonal shift: Is it allergies or a cold?

As the seasons shift and the weather changes, many people may find themselves dealing with symptoms of common colds or allergies. While these two conditions share some similarities, they have different causes and treatments. Understanding the differences can be the first step in finding relief.

Did you know?

Nearly 40% of Canadians report being allergic to pollens or grasses. And although, historically, cold and flu cases drop off as the warmer months arise, viruses that can make us sick never fully disappear.

Allergies and colds can share some common symptoms, but there are indicators you may have one or the other. 

Here are some common symptoms to watch for:


  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue


  • Itchy eyes
  • Rashes
  • Swelling


  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Sore throat

Remember, colds are caused by a viral infection and will usually last around seven - 10 days. Allergies are caused by the body’s immune system reacting to allergens, such as pollen, grass, or pet dander, and can persist for much longer periods of time.

When to see your doctor

If your symptoms persist for more than 10 days, are severe and unusual, or seem to be getting worse, it may be a good idea to see your doctor. They will help determine if the symptoms are caused by a viral cold or common allergy and will recommend appropriate treatment. If you notice any trouble breathing due to your symptoms, see your doctor or call Health Link. 

Home treatments

For seasonal allergies, avoiding the allergen is key. Keeping windows and doors closed, showering or changing your clothes after being outside, and using air filters or purifiers can all help reduce your exposure to common outdoor allergies. For extra relief of allergy symptoms, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. They can recommend antihistamine medications or sinus rinses depending on your concerns.

For colds, proper handwashing and keeping hands away from your face can help avoid catching viruses that make you sick. If you do catch a cold, rest and hydration are important. There is no quick cure for a cold; however, some doctor-recommended at-home treatments for symptom relief include taking zinc lozenges, lemon, and honey.

Your health is a top priority, no matter the season. With allergies and colds being common conditions that can impact your wellbeing, it’s important to know the difference between the two. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, you can take charge of your health and feel your best all year round. 

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