Got the sniffles? Here's how to tell if it's allergies, a cold or something else

If you develop congestion and a runny nose, it's understandable to wonder what could be behind your discomfort. Do you have a cold, allergies or something else entirely? It's not always easy to figure out.

There's a reason for the confusion: The way your body reacts to allergies and infections is similar, allergist and immunologist Dr. Tania Elliott, tells Yahoo Life.

"Your allergy cells are a component of your immune system," she explains. "The reason why we see so much overlap in symptoms is viruses and bacteria can also aggravate and activate those cells."

When you're exposed to something you're allergic to, those allergy cells are activated and release histamine, which causes symptoms like itchiness, redness, swelling and mucus production, Elliott says. "When you have allergies that are untreated, what's happening is your immune system is constantly activated so you get a stuffy nose and increased mucus," she says. "Well, guess what? That is a perfect setup for an infection." Meaning, your allergies can actually cause an infection if they go untreated.

Watch the video above to learn more.

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