The good news is, we’re finally getting to the end of snow forecasts for this year. The bad news is, things like sneezing, runny nose/post-nasal drip, congestion, coughing and other symptoms related to spring allergies are very much a part of the current landscape. But how are you supposed to know if it’s allergies or a cold? Because these symptoms are common to both, it can be hard to tell. If your misery includes body aches, sore throat, fever or a sudden onset of numerous sneezes, you’ve probably got a cold and should see a doctor if your symptoms haven’t improved in four or five days. But if you experience symptoms after exposure to your known offender(s) — and are sneezing, and your eyes and/or nose feel itchy — it’s probably allergies. “Avoidance of allergens may bring some relief,” says Leanne Forman, MD, Chief of Internal Medicine at Westchester Medical Center (WMC), the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “You can also try alternative therapies, such as probiotics, acupuncture and herbal remedies.” Combination and symptom-specific medications such as nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines, decongestants and NSAIDS generally help keep symptoms in check, but if not, Fateema Islam, DO, internal medicine physician at WMC, recommends allergy testing. “Skin pricks or lab testing to identify your allergies can lead to an effective desensitization therapy.” Pollen and dust-mite treatments are generally successful, but mold and animal-dander allergies may require a regimen and time to achieve more consistent relief. “Unfortunately, some people suffer perennial allergies, and these do not respond as well to desensitization,” Dr. Islam says. Statistics indicate that 10 to 30 percent of American children and adults suffer from chronic allergies, and the numbers are growing. Some identified risk factors include family history, male gender, birth during pollen season, early antibiotic use and maternal-smoking exposure within the first year of life.