When I start to feel under the weather, my first thought is figuring out which bad habit to blame. Lack of sleep? Too much caffeine? Stressing my body out again? When you generally avoid healthy foods and habits like I do, it could really be anything. But if my vague illness is accompanied by other symptoms like coughing and sneezing, and it also happens to be springtime, I often wonder whether I have a cold or allergies. Having sinus pressure or a sniffling nose could have you questioning whether you just need a day off from work to recover and marathon Netflix — or if you'll be stuck with symptoms until allergy season ends. Allergy season usually starts in spring and ends in fall, so if your symptoms are seasonal in nature, you have a long wait ahead of you until they go away on their own.
New York City-based allergist and Flonase spokesperson Dr. Tania Elliott, MD, tells Bustle that people often don't seek treatment for allergies, which can further hurt you in the long run. "For whatever reason, people think allergies are a lifestyle thing and you should suffer through them," she tells Bustle. "Allergies left untreated can lead to chronic disease, sleep apnea, cognitive impairment, missed workdays and decreases in productivity." It's also possible to get some relief from allergies, aka you don't need to suffer all season long. Similarly, with a cold, sometimes rest can actually help you feel better faster — and if you think you're "just" having a bad allergy flare up, you might not take the sick day you really need. It's important to know whether you have a cold or allergies so you can decide on a treatment plan. Here are three tips from Elliott to help you determine what's up with your body.