It’s that time of year when people start getting sick left and right. With all the causes of a runny nose, it can be hard to determine what’s going on. There are quite a few common winter allergies that can cause runny noses, congestion and coughing. It’s also getting into flu season, which lasts from November to February. You also could just have a common cold. All three have very similar symptoms—runny or stuffy nose, congestion, sore throat, and a cough. So how do you figure out what you have? We’ve compiled a few ways to tell the difference between the three.


Common colds happen frequently in the winter. Traveling for the holidays (all that exposure on airplanes!), getting less exercise and eating fewer fresh fruits and vegetables can weaken you immune system, making it harder to fight off colds.

Cold symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, nasal congestion, cough and sore throat. It’s milder than the flu, though they can vary in severity, so you could feel mostly fine or you could be bedridden for a few days. Check the color of your mucus. Mucus from colds is typically a thicker consistency and yellow or greenish. Common colds last about three to five days and usually stick around for no longer than two weeks. If you’ve been sick longer than that, it could be allergies or the flu.


The flu has similar symptoms to a cold—runny nose, stuffiness, sore throat, cough—but usually a lot more severe. A lot of times, the flu can absolutely knock you out. You may not be able to breathe through your nose at all. Plus, cough from the flu is typically drier than one from a cold, and can be more painful.

The flu is also usually accompanied by a high fever, often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll probably also feel very fatigued and tired. Body aches and pains, headaches and even nausea are common. The flu can last from one to two weeks and usually requires some time away from school or work.

If you suspect you have the flu, see a doctor as soon as possible. You can get medicine or antiviral drugs to help you recover faster. Over the counter medications can help you manage the symptoms. Rest is necessary. To avoid the getting the flu, you should get a flu vaccination each year.


Allergies are more common in the warmer spring and summer months. However, there are still plenty of winter allergies in Texas that you might not even know about. Many people are allergic to pine, so they react to the Christmas trees in houses and malls. “Cedar fever” caused by mountain cedar in particular is an issue for Texans, since it thrives in cold weather and spreads pollen everywhere. In Texas and across the South, ragweed can be an well issue into the fall, depending on the climate. Plus, after months of not being used, your heater collects dust that spreads once you turn it on.

You can sometimes tell by your mucus or snot if you’re having an allergic reaction—it will usually be clear and runny. Itchy or watery eyes and sneezing are symptoms that are specific to allergies. If you’ve been sick for over two weeks or they just never seem to go away, you could have allergies. You’ll show symptoms for as long as you’re exposed to the allergen.

If you’ve been sick for over a week, have a very high fever, or are otherwise concerned, visit your doctor. Whether you have a cold, the flu or just some bad allergies, TexaClear™ has a product that can help you manage the symptoms.