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Allergies or a cold? Decode your symptoms

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When the weather warms up, it's hard to tell what is causing your sneezing, coughing and runny nose symptoms. The question is - when you sneeze, are you suffering from allergies, or experiencing the symptoms of a cold or the flu?

This year, the milder winter weather nationwide is resulting in reports of an extended allergy season. One reason: the warmer climate is allowing system-irritating pollens like ragweed to experience a longer growing season, as reported by MSNBC.MSN.com.

On the flip side, the warmer weather has helped to reduce the severity of this year's cold and flu season. This can be explained by the fact that people were able to get outside more frequently in the nicer weather, helping to prevent germs from spreading as easily as when people are confined inside.

Allergies are developed when the autoimmune system reacts to foreign invaders, or allergens. And the common cold is caused by a virus. Neither can be "cured," but the resulting complications can be treated to help you at least feel better.

So when you start coughing, sneezing and complaining about a stuffed-up nose - or you discover yourself feeling sluggish and reaching for a box of tissues - are you going to be treating an illness or allergy symptom?

In the long run, it doesn't matter if you have the flu or allergies if you can find a product that offers relief of the symptoms for both. For example, ingredients found in Contac Cold & Flu Maximum Strength/Night formula offer temporary relief of symptoms for both cold and allergies. So if you or a family member (12 or older) is experiencing congestion, headache, fever or itchy, watery eyes, the following ingredients can help provide relief:

* Acetaminophen - This helps to relieve pain and reduce fever.

* Phenylephrine hydrochloride - Works as a decongestant, opening up airflow in the nasal passages.

* Chlorpheniramine maleate - An antihistamine, reducing the sneezing, runny nose and watery-eye symptoms.

Likewise, the decongestant and pain reliever found the in the Contac Day formula will offer temporary relief of cold and allergy symptoms like sinus congestion/pressure and headache - no matter if they are caused by allergies or a cold virus. However, it is important to note that Contac Non-Drowsy (the day formula) does not contain an antihistamine.

If you find your sneezing or coughing to be interrupting your family's busy schedule, don't waste time worrying if allergies or a virus is the culprit. Instead, address the symptoms so you can get back to your busy schedule in comfort. Remember, all Contac products contain acetaminophen. Please refer to the packaging for important safety information. Visit contac.com/coupons to download a $1 coupon off Contac.

Get out to enjoy the warmer weather as the mild winter winds down and spring arrives with green grasses, beautiful flowers, and yes, allergens. You'll be prepared to tackle any allergy or cold/flu symptoms as they come your way.