black woman in bed coughing and sneezing with medicine and tissues at her bedside table

Do I Have Seasonal Allergies or a Summer Cold?

'Tis The Season

It's a Monday morning in May. You've woken up with a scratchy throat, a cough, and a stuffy nose — time to text your boss that you are taking a PTO day and going back to sleep.

You aren't alone. More than 50 million people in America suffer from allergies every year, and the average adult has 2-3 colds per year. Summer colds and seasonal allergies can cross in their symptoms — and often leave those sick wondering: am I suffering from a summer cold or seasonal allergies?

What Is a Summer Cold?

As the name may infer, a summer cold is a common cold that you experience during summertime. Primarily an infection of the upper respiratory tract, mucous membranes become inflamed in the nose, ears, and throat.

Cold Symptoms

Common colds have a range of symptoms depending on geographic location, age, and other pre-existing conditions. Some symptoms you may experience with a summer cold include:

  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Earache

Causes of Summer Colds

A common cold is a viral infection that impacts the nose and throat. Most viral infections are contagious — such as COVID-19 or influenza. Different types of viruses can cause summer colds.

Viral colds are transmitted easily through air droplets or on a surface. To prevent getting summer colds, always practice good hand-washing hygiene!


If you come down with the summer cold, your doctor will most likely recommend you a day or two of rest until you are no longer contagious.

Additionally, corticosteroids are proven to help with symptoms of the common cold to reduce inflammation of the nose and throat. To relieve symptoms at home, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and try over-the-counter medicine such as decongestants. It is important to consult your primary care provider on an exact treatment plan.

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Also known as "hay fever," seasonal allergies stem from your body's immune system overreacting to an outside substance.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms are dependent on the allergen(s) that cause a reaction in your system. These symptoms can be:

  • Runny nose
  • Chest congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Asthma symptoms

Causes of Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies are often hereditary or can develop individually. Seasonal allergies act up in the spring and summer because of the rise in pollen, dust mites, and animal dander from shedding.


The initial step in treating seasonal allergies is identifying and diagnosing your allergens. Diagnosis occurs through skin tests, blood tests, or allergy patch tests. After the appropriate tests are completed, your allergist will create a customized prevention and treatment plan, which can include:

  • Avoidance of allergen triggers:
    • Prevention through avoiding interaction with those things that cause your allergies
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as oral antihistamines, nose sprays, or eye drops:
    • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    • Diphenhydramine (Bendadryl)
    • Desloratadine (Clarinex)
    • Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
    • Azelastine HCL drops (eye drops)
    • Fluticasone (Flonase nose spray)
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)


The primary ways to tell the difference between summer colds and seasonal allergies is the length of symptoms and which symptoms you are experiencing.

Summer colds will most likely subside after seven to ten days, while seasonal allergies — without treatment — will persist for an extended period. Additionally, common colds can cause changes in body temperature (fever or cold sweats).

Your primary care provider will diagnose and treat your common cold symptoms, while an allergist will diagnose and treat seasonal allergies.

Helping You Live Allergy Free at Allergy Institute PC

We are here if you are not feeling your best. If you are looking for the treatment of short-term or chronic allergy and asthma conditions, our highly experienced staff provides solutions and effective services that set us apart from other clinics in the Des Moines area.

Contact us online or call (515) 619-5179 to get in touch with our team regarding your allergy diagnosis and treatment today.