Seasonal Allergies vs. Cold: Contagion, Symptoms, and Treatment

Wyndly Care Team
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Can you pass seasonal allergies to another person?

No, seasonal allergies are not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another. They are immune responses triggered by exposure to allergens like pollen. However, genetics can play a role, meaning allergies can potentially be inherited across generations.

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Do Allergies Occur Year-Round?

Yes, allergies can occur year-round. While many people associate allergies with specific seasons, indoor allergens can cause symptoms throughout the year. These perennial or year-round allergies are often due to indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold.

Indoor or Winter Allergens

Indoor allergens are more prevalent during winter when people spend more time indoors. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments and are often found in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. Pet dander is another common indoor allergen that can cause congestion and other allergy symptoms.

Mold is a fungus that grows in damp areas and can cause allergic reactions. It can be found in areas like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. Exposure to these allergens can lead to symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and coughing. If you have symptoms year-round, it would be beneficial to consult a healthcare professional to determine if you have perennial allergies.

How to Differentiate Between Allergies and the Common Cold?

Differentiating between allergies and the common cold can be challenging as they share similar symptoms. However, there are key differences. While both can cause sneezing, runny nose, and congestion, allergies are often accompanied by itchy or watery eyes, something not usually seen with colds.

Hayfever or Cold—Identifying the Differences

Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is often mistaken for a cold. However, hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to outdoor or indoor allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. Unlike a cold, which can include body aches and fever, hay fever often causes itching, particularly in the nose, throat, eyes, or ears, and sometimes fatigue. The duration of symptoms can also help differentiate; a cold usually lasts up to two weeks, while allergy symptoms can last as long as you're exposed to the allergen. If symptoms persist longer than two weeks, it's possible that you might be dealing with allergies and not a cold. For a definitive diagnosis, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional or allergist.

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are caused by an immune system reaction to outdoor allergens such as pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. These allergies are termed 'seasonal' because their symptoms typically appear when certain plants start to bloom and release pollen into the air.

Symptoms and Causes

Symptoms of seasonal allergies can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, and coughing. More severe symptoms could lead to congestion and sinus pressure, sometimes resulting in sinus infections. Allergies can also cause fatigue, as the body's immune system is working overtime to combat the allergens, leading to feelings of tiredness and lethargy.

The primary cause of seasonal allergies is the body's immune response to certain outdoor allergens. For example, in spring, trees such as oak, cedar, and pine release pollen, which can trigger allergies. In late spring and summer, grass pollens (like ryegrass and Timothy grass) are common allergens. Come fall, weed pollens, especially from plants like ragweed, become the main culprits. These allergens can be inhaled, leading to the body producing antibodies and releasing histamines, which cause allergy symptoms. For more detailed information on the causes and treatments, check out this helpful guide.

How to Diagnose Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are diagnosed by assessing the patient's symptoms, medical history, and sometimes through specific allergy tests. Physicians usually start with a physical examination and a detailed discussion about the symptoms and their patterns.

Diagnosis and Tests

The preliminary diagnosis often involves ruling out other conditions that may exhibit similar symptoms, such as a common cold or sinusitis. For a more definitive diagnosis, your doctor may recommend allergy tests. There are two main types of allergy tests: skin tests and blood tests. The skin test, also known as a prick test, involves exposing the skin to small amounts of allergens and observing for a reaction. The blood test, on the other hand, measures the amount of specific antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE), present in your blood when exposed to allergens.

These tests are usually carried out by an allergist and can help identify the exact allergens causing your symptoms. Understanding what you're allergic to can be a crucial step in managing your symptoms and planning your treatment. For more details on how to diagnose seasonal allergies, refer to this comprehensive article.

What Are the Management and Treatment Options for Seasonal Allergies?

The management and treatment of seasonal allergies typically involve a combination of prevention strategies, symptom relief through medications, and long-term treatment plans like immunotherapy. The goal is to control symptoms and improve the quality of life for allergy sufferers.

Management and Treatment

The first line of defense against seasonal allergies is to avoid contact with allergens. However, this is not always possible, especially during peak pollen seasons. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays can provide temporary relief from symptoms. Prescription medications, such as corticosteroids and leukotriene modifiers, are often used for more severe symptoms. In addition to medications, lifestyle changes like staying indoors on high pollen days, wearing sunglasses outdoors, and regular cleaning of your living environment can also help manage symptoms. For more information on management and treatment, explore this detailed article.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option that aims to desensitize your immune system to allergens. It involves placing a tablet under the tongue that contains small amounts of specific allergens. Over time, regular exposure to these allergens can help your immune system build tolerance and reduce allergic reactions. This form of therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals with allergies that are not effectively managed by medications or those who experience side effects from medications. It's also a preferred choice for those who want to address the underlying cause of their allergies rather than just treating the symptoms.

How to Prevent Seasonal Allergies?

Preventing seasonal allergies involves proactive measures to reduce exposure to allergens and strengthen the immune system. This can be achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes, environmental modifications, and medical treatments.


One of the key strategies to prevent seasonal allergies is to limit exposure to allergens. This can be done by staying indoors on high pollen days, keeping windows closed, using air filters, and regularly cleaning your living environment. Wearing sunglasses and hats can also help prevent pollen from getting into your eyes. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate hydration can boost the immune system and reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. Some people may also benefit from starting allergy medications before the onset of allergy season. For more comprehensive strategies on preventing seasonal allergies, consider this insightful article.

Sublingual immunotherapy is another prevention option that can help desensitize the immune system to allergens, reducing the severity or occurrence of allergic reactions over time. This long-term treatment approach is particularly beneficial for those with allergies that are not effectively managed by avoidance strategies or medications.

How to Reduce Allergens in Your Home?

Reducing allergens in your home can significantly mitigate the symptoms of seasonal allergies. This involves targeting common household sources of allergens such as dust, pet dander, mold, and pollen.

Tips to Help Reduce Allergens

To minimize indoor allergens, start with regular house cleaning. Dust frequently, vacuum with a HEPA filter, and wash bedding weekly in hot water. Using air purifiers can also help remove allergens from the air.

For individuals with pet allergies, consider keeping pets out of bedrooms and other areas where you spend a lot of time. Regular grooming of pets can also help reduce dander.

Controlling humidity in your home can prevent the growth of mold, another common allergen. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas and fix any leaks or areas of water damage.

Lastly, to keep pollen out, close windows during high pollen times and remove shoes and outerwear before entering the house.

For a more detailed guide on reducing allergens in your home, visit this helpful article. Remember, while it may not be possible to completely eliminate all allergens, reducing exposure can significantly alleviate allergy symptoms and improve quality of life.

Live Allergy-Free with Wyndly

If you want long-term relief from your allergies, Wyndly can help. Our doctors will help you identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to get you the lifelong relief you deserve. Start by taking our quick online allergy assessment today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell if it's a cold or allergies?

Distinguishing between a cold and allergies can be done by examining symptoms and their duration. Allergies often cause itching and last as long as you're exposed to the allergen. Colds don't cause itching and generally dissipate within one to two weeks.

What are the 7 allergy symptoms?

The seven most common allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, itchy throat or ears, cough, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms can vary in severity and duration, and may present differently depending on the allergen and individual's immune response.

Can seasonal allergies be passed down?

Yes, seasonal allergies can be hereditary. If one or both parents have allergies, their children are more likely to develop allergies as well. However, specific allergies, like to pollen or ragweed, are not inherited directly, rather, the tendency to develop allergies is passed down.

What kind of allergies are contagious?

No allergies are contagious. Allergies are immune system responses to allergens, like pollen, dust, or food, which are individually specific and cannot be transmitted from person to person. However, symptoms of allergies can sometimes resemble those of contagious diseases like colds or flu.

Should I stay home if I have seasonal allergies?

Staying home is not necessary for managing seasonal allergies unless symptoms are severe. However, it's beneficial to limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high, typically in the morning and on windy days. Keeping windows closed and using air purifiers can also help reduce indoor exposure.

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