You’re sneezing, feeling disoriented, have a runny nose, and just generally feel crummy. But are you sick with a cold or do you have allergies?
Allergist Morris Nejat’s advice: Do yourself a favor and examine your snot next time you sneeze. If it’s yellow or green, you’ve got yourself an infection. If your snot’s turning up clear mucus — or none at all — you’ve got allergies. Three cheers for nose-shredding dry sneezes all season long!
There are other telltale signs Nejat and others use to sort the mystery of whether a human is suffering from allergies or the common cold. Infections declare themselves with a fever, along with body aches and congestion, where you’re sucking back mucus instead of sneezing it out.
Allergies, meanwhile, just go on and on and on. Your eyes and nose will probably itch. You may find yourself sneezing everywhere — at work, on your roommate, all over your subway neighbors. This is especially true if you’re a dog walker or in a room with a basset hound. That’s because, unlike the common cold — which is basically the same the whole time you have it — allergies tend to be exacerbated in certain places that are full of your particular allergens but not in others that aren’t.
If allergies ail you, you can definitely try one of the dozens of different allergy drugs available over the counter. But Nejat suggests seeing a specialist if your allergy symptoms persist despite a daily dose of an allergy-relieving drug.
“It really does help, instead of just going over the counter and just guessing, to see an allergist to get the right medicine and treating the underlying cause,” Nejat tells Inverse. “And obviously, if you’re allergic, you want to learn what you’re actually allergic to.”