Can Spring Allergies Really Trigger a Cough, or Is It a Cold? Here's How to Know For Sure

No Restrictions: Internal and editorial use approved. OK for Native and co-branded usePhotographer: Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

If you struggle with seasonal allergies — and the portion of the population that does is only growing — you probably dread the start of Spring. As beautiful as it can be, the influx of pollen from trees, grasses, and more can swiftly trigger symptoms in your nose, eyes, and throat. You might even develop a nagging cough this time of year, making it even more difficult to keep up your routine.

But is a cough really a symptom of seasonal allergies, or is it more likely that you've come down with a virus? William Reisacher, MD, director of allergy services at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, explained that a cough isn't among the earliest signs of seasonal allergies, but that doesn't mean it's unrelated.

"Allergies to airborne allergens, such as cats, dust, or pollen typically produce sneezing, itchiness in the nose or eyes, and runny nose," Dr. Reisacher told POPSUGAR. But if those symptoms linger, they can certainly cause a cough.

"After an extended period of time, the body will defend itself by making a thicker version of its normal mucus, known as post nasal drip, which can produce a cough," he said. "Inflammation in the nose and throat can also produce inflammation in the lower part of the airway (in the lungs and bronchial passageways), as seen in people with asthma."

If your cough is related to allergies, it will probably feel very dry. "Although not absolute, irritation of the airways from allergies or asthma will typically produce a dry cough. If a wet, persistent cough is present, a doctor should be consulted to make sure an infection is not present," Dr. Reisacher explained. Your doctor can ensure that you're taking the right medications so you can feel better sooner rather than later and avoid getting even sicker.