Are you worried that you’re getting a cold? It might actually be something else.

This flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in years. But not every sniffle and sneeze signals the flu or a cold. They could mean winter allergies.

We spend a lot more time inside in the winter. So those who are sensitive to pet dander, dust mites and mold may suffer more when the thermometer drops.

Symptoms of indoor allergies can be similar to those of cold and flu. But there are some tell-tale differences.

Colds and especially the flu tend to be accompanied by fever, fatigue, aches, and sore throats. Whereas allergies usually result in a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. Colds and flu last about seven to 10 days, whereas allergies can linger for weeks or even months.

To control allergy symptoms wash your hands and face frequently and take hot showers. The steam may relieve your sinus congestion. Try a saline solution to clear out your nose. Stay hydrated and use a humidifier.

You can also try over the counter antihistamines. But if your symptoms last more than a week, it’s probably time to check in with your doctor or an allergist.

January 23, 2013