By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — Signs of spring are in the air but that’s not something you have to tell allergy sufferers.

This season has arrived a bit earlier than usual.

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WBZ-TV’s Dr. Mallika Marshall has been seeing patients in her clinic for the past couple of weeks who are already complaining about their allergies.

Much of that is due to warmer temperatures. In fact, some areas are seeing tree pollen a month earlier than usual. Grass and flower pollen will soon follow.

Since it is still cold and flu season, how can you tell what is bothering you?

Dr. Marshall says there is some overlap in symptoms like nasal congestion and cough. However with a cold, you will probably feel more run down, have more of a headache, maybe a low grade fever and sore throat.

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With allergies you’re more likely to have itchy, watery eyes, an itchy runny nose or itchy throat.

In fact, itch can be a good way to tell the difference between allergies and the common cold.

How to can you prevent these problems from escalating?

If you tend to suffer from allergies, it’s a good time to start a nasal steroid, like Flonase, which can now be bought over-the-counter. But talk to your doctor first if you’ve never used one before.

A nasal steroid is often used along with an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or any other generic equivalent.

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Also, keep windows closed in your house and car, shower at night so you don’t bring pollen to bed with you and avoid exercising or working outdoors during peak pollen days.

Dr. Mallika Marshall