Many people get allergies in the spring or summertime, when plants are blooming and pollen is floating through the air. But many people are susceptible to fall and winter allergies, as well. However, they might not even realize that what they have are allergies, During the colder months, it’s easy to write symptoms off as a cold or bug, or to blame it on the wind or temperatures. Here are some common winter allergies and how to tell if you’re having an allergic reaction, or if your runny nose really is just a cold.

While pollen may not be an issue in the fall or winter, you can still have a reaction to a plant. Many people are allergic to pine, which is commonly used as Christmas trees during the holiday season. Even if you don’t have one in your home, trees at friends houses, the office or even shopping malls can set off your allergies.

The heater can also cause problems for a lot of people, especially when the temperatures first start to drop. If your heat hasn’t been on for months, it has probably collected dust, mites and mold spores. When you finally turn it on, it sends all those allergy-causing particles into the air to float around your space, irritating your eyes, nose and throat.

Animals can cause allergies in the winter, too. Even if you’re not allergic to the animal fur, you may have issues with the dander. Since it’s cold outside, both you and your pets are indoors more, so you have more exposure to it.

Mold allergies also intensify in the fall and winter. Piles of dead, wet leaves are a breeding ground for mold. Plus the wet snow and melting ice in gutters, on the roof and in the attic can cause mold and water damage. Even the wood you may have cut and stored for fireplaces or furnaces may have mold growing on it. Once you bring it inside, you release the mold spores into the air.

Not having windows or doors open and lack of time outside means that you’re sitting in your home, school or office with air that is continually circulating the same allergens over and over again.

Since both colds and allergies are often marked by or runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and itchy eyes, it can be hard to determine which one you’re suffering from. The best way to tell is to see how long the symptoms last. A common cold usually won’t last more than five days or a week and a half at the most. Anything longer than that could be an allergy. See your physician to make sure you don’t have a bacterial infection, though.

The type of mucus you produce may also indicate what you’re suffering from. Colds typically produce thick yellow or green snot as your body clears out the virus. Snot from allergies is usually thin, clear and watery.

There are even subtle differences in symptoms that may tell you what’s going on. While a runny or stuffy nose is common for both, coughing and congestion are more common for colds. Common colds and the flu are also often accompanied by fevers, aches and exhaustion. Constant sneezing is typically associated with allergies.

Whatever you’re suffering from, you can take medicines to help reduce and alleviate your symptoms so you can enjoy the cooler months. 

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