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The Transition from Cold & Flu to Spring Allergies

In Wake County, we are starting to see the pops of color on forsythia bushes and daffodils a little earlier this year due to unseasonably warm winter. It is these blooms that are the typical hallmarks of the transition from cold and flu season to spring allergy season.

And, it is this time of year when patients start questioning whether their runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes are the result of a viral cold or a seasonal allergy.

Treat your symptoms most effectively by correctly identifying whether your respiratory discomfort is due to a virus or spring allergies.

Diagnosing Allergies

Physicians can diagnose allergies with an allergy test, but in urgent care we more frequently diagnose allergies based off of history and potential exposure by asking these questions:

Have you been experiencing the same symptoms for weeks?

  • Are the symptoms not improving or getting worse?
  • Do your symptoms tend to wax and wane?
  • Do you have a history of allergies?

Positive answers to these questions may point to an allergic reaction because colds typically only last for one to two weeks total and the symptoms tend to change and then improve over time before disappearing all together.

Woman with spring allergies

Treating Allergy Symptoms

If you self-diagnose yourself with spring allergies, the best way to cure your symptoms is to remove exposure to the allergen. Try to keep your windows closed and limit your time outdoors. Of course, eliminating exposure to the allergen is often not possible, so your next defense is to take preventative medication like an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as: Zyrtec® or Allegra® or a steroid nose spray like Flonase®.

If you know you suffer from spring allergies, it is probably a good idea to proactively start treating yourself with the over-the-counter medications when you start seeing the flowers bloom or traces of pollen in the air.

And, if your symptoms are more severe than normal, symptoms are not responding to treatment as you expected, or you suspect your cold or spring allergy has caused a respiratory or sinus infection – see a doctor for treatment. Physicians can also provide advice on what medication regimen will help you the most.

About Matthew Sproul, MD

Dr. Matthew Sproul is a family medicine physician with WakeMed Urgent Care – Raleigh & Cary.