Sneezing, congestion & a sore throat… are you confusing a summer cold for allergies? We’re here to set the record straight

This article is sponsored by Piri & Otrivine

Picture this: summer has arrived and you’ve made exciting plans for the months ahead. Suddenly your nose is running like a tap, your tickly cough won’t stop and the sneezes just keep coming… sounds like a cold, right? Or is it seasonal allergies?

More often than not, getting these symptoms during the summer can cause some serious confusion, so if you’re not sure if it’s a summer cold or hay fever, take note as we break down the differences between the two.

What is a summer cold?

A summer cold is simply a cold that can be caught during summertime. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just catch colds in the winter. Both summer and winter colds are caused by the rhinovirus and are just as common as each other.

During the winter we’re more inclined to wrap ourselves in a blanket until we feel better, whereas in summer we’re eager to be outside enjoying the sunshine.

What are the symptoms of a summer cold?

The symptoms of a summer cold are just the same as the common cold we get in the winter months. Generally, symptoms include:

•  A blocked or runny nose

•  A sore throat

• Headaches

• Muscle aches

• Coughing

• Sneezing

• A higher temperature

• Feeling pressure in your ears and face

• Loss of taste and smell

What are summer allergies?

The most common type of summer allergy is allergic rhinitis, which is a very common condition caused by allergens such as pollen, dust mites or mould spores which can cause inflammation inside the nose. 

However, when we think of summer allergies, the one that instantly springs to mind is hay fever, which is an allergic reaction to pollen produced by trees, grasses and weeds. Hay fever season starts around March and lasts until September time, however you’re most likely to get symptoms when the pollen count is high.

Some people may also experience skin allergies such as urticaria or hives (known as nettle rash). These allergies, along with the ones mentioned above, can all be heightened during the summer months. 

What are the symptoms of summer allergies?

While some summer allergies may have slightly different symptoms to one another, generally they include:

• A blocked or runny nose

• Sneezing

• Red and watery eyes

• Itchy eyes, nose and throat

• A dry, irritating cough

Some skin allergies such as hives can cause red and raised skin welts that are accompanied by itching.

How do I know if I’ve got a summer cold or allergies?

Although a handful of the symptoms align, there are some tell-tale signs that separate a summer cold and allergies.

Difference in symptoms

While common symptoms like sneezing, a blocked nose and a cough can blur the lines between the two, allergies tend to cause watery and itchy eyes, as well as skin irritation, both of which don’t occur with a cold. Likewise, the body aches and fever that come with a cold are very rare in allergies.

Allergies last longer

Do your symptoms clear up after a couple of weeks? If you notice they ease off as time goes on, chances are you’ve had a summer cold. Whereas allergy symptoms can persist as long as you’re exposed to the allergy trigger. 

For example, some people may find their symptoms suddenly appear during the summertime when the pollen count is high. This would strongly signify that they are triggered due to an allergy not a cold and their symptoms can persist for weeks, even months before the pollen count lowers again.

The onset of symptoms differs

More often than not, symptoms of a summer cold will be staggered. So you might start with a blocked nose and then develop a sore throat which can change in severity, whereas allergy symptoms come on all at once.

Symptoms change when you travel

One key difference between the two is that your symptoms can change if you’re travelling. If you have a summer cold, your symptoms will stay the same regardless of where you travel, while allergies can either be alleviated or worsened by travel, as different places will have different levels of pollinating plants or potential allergens.

Nasal discharge looks different

As summer colds are caused by a virus, a tell-tale sign that there’s an infection is the colour and consistency of nasal mucus – it’s usually thick, and turns a greenish, yellow colour. However, this is not always the case. Mucas can stay clear is there is no infection and it's just a runny nose. Allergy mucas on the other hand, is clearer and thinner.

What are the best remedies?

Whether you’re suffering with a summer cold or allergies, take a look at our top picks that’ll relieve symptoms and get you feeling your best again.

Remedies for summer allergies

There’s nothing worse than allergies interfering with your plans or make-up (watery eyes are no joke). Piri is the UK’s No.1 selling allergy brand* and the range helps you take control of your allergies, keeping symptoms at bay so you can enjoy a fun-filled summer. If you’re experiencing symptoms and are still unsure what you have, speak to your pharmacy team. They will be able to offer support and advice regarding the products most suitable for you.

Piriteze Hayfever & Allergy Tablets

• 30 tablets

• One a day

• Contains cetirizine hydrochloride to relieve symptoms

• For ages 6 years+

Offering up to 24 hours of allergy relief, Piriteze Hayfever & Allergy Tablets contain an antihistamine to relieve common allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes and itchy skin from allergies such as hay fever, mould spore, dust mite and pet allergies as well as itchy skin rashes. Always read the label.

Pirinase Hayfever Once Daily Nasal Spray

• 60 sprays

• Non-drowsy

• Contains fluticasone propionate to help control inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to airborne allergens

• For adults & children over 18 years

No other spray is stronger for relief of hay fever symptoms. This easy-to-use nasal spray provides effective relief from nasal congestion, while helping to alleviate a runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose and watery, itchy eyes, so you can go about your day. Always read the label.

Piriteze Children's Hayfever & Allergy Syrup

• Size: 70ml

• Sugar free

• Banana flavour

• For ages 6 years+

• Contains cetirizine hydrochloride to relieve symptoms

• Comes with a measuring spoon

For kids who suffer with seasonal allergies, Piriteze Children's Hayfever & Allergy Syrup helps treat symptoms of hay fever including itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and some itchy skin rashes such as hives. The syrup also provides effective relief from other allergies associated with pets, house dust mites, and mould spores. Always read the label.

Piriteze Hayfever & Allergy Tablets

• 14 tablets

• One a day

• For ages 6 years+

• Contains cetirizine to relieve symptoms

Provides up to 24-hour max strength relief from seasonal allergy symptoms. Piriteze Hayfever & Allergy Tablets contain cetirizine, an antihistamine, to treat the symptoms of hay fever, pet allergies, mould spore, dust mite and skin allergies, including hives. Always read the label.

Remedies for cold & flu

Don’t let a summer cold get you down, try Otrivine to help you breathe your best.

Otrivine Blocked Nose Relief 0.1% w/v Nasal Spray

• Size: 10ml

• Contains xylometazoline hydrochloride

• For adults & children 12 years+

Otrivine Blocked Nose Relief Nasal Spray can start to work in two minutes and last for up to 10 hours. It delivers a measured dose to clear a blocked nose, giving relief from nasal congestion and sinusitis discomfort. Always read the label.

Otrivine Sinusitis Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray

• Size: 10ml

• Contains xylometazoline hydrochloride

• For adults & children 12 years+

Providing relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion, Otrivine Sinusitis Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray helps open up and clear the nasal passages by reducing excessive nasal secretions and returning swollen blood vessels back to their normal size. Always read the label.

Otrivine Congestion Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray

• Size: 10ml

• Contains xylometazoline hydrochloride

• For adults & children 12 years+

For relief from nasal congestion caused by colds, Otrivine Congestion Relief 0.1% Nasal Spray helps unblock your nose in just a few minutes by opening up and clearing the nasal passages. Always read the label.

Otrivine Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal Spray

• Size: 20ml

• For adults & children 6 years+

Containing natural hypertonic sea water, combined with with Mint-Eucalyptus globulus aroma and wild mint extract, Otrivine Natural with Eucalyptus Nasal Spray naturally helps relieve nasal congestion caused by colds, providing an immediate sensation of relief while delivering a hit of freshness.

So next time you’re worried about your summer sniffles, take a closer look at your symptoms and find the treatment that’s right for you.

*Piri, the UK’s No.1 selling allergy brand. Contact for verification.