Safetote Rx

Coughing and Sneezing-A Cold, the Flu, or Allergies?



It’s that time of year when you might wake up one day with a stuffy nose and a headache, but how do you know if it’s a cold, the flu, or just seasonal allergies?  The flu and a cold can be particularly hard to tell the difference between as they might have a lot of the same symptoms.  Cold symptoms can also be the same as allergies, so it is important to try to figure out which problem you have, as you treat all of these conditions differently.

A cold usually starts with a sore throat.  It can be followed by nasal congestion or a runny nose and a cough.  A common cold starts slow and usually only lasts 7-10 days.  Colds generally do not have a fever.   It is best to treat a cold with rest, fluids, and nasal decongestants.    Cold symptoms can evolve into a bacterial infection which may require antibiotics, but usually not until 2 weeks have passed.

The flu has many of the same symptoms of a cold, but the symptoms are usually more severe and come on quickly instead of over the course of a few days.  Flu symptoms include all the symptoms of a cold, plus a fever and body aches.  The flu can be prevented by getting a flu shot.  You can treat the flu with an antiviral medication in addition to the treatment of the actual symptoms.  It is important to get treatment for the flu, as serious complications can occur such as pneumonia.

Allergies are also quite similar to a cold, as you can have nasal congestion and coughing.  This time of year the weather is changing and pollen season is beginning.  It might be hard to tell at first if you have a cold or seasonal allergy.   Colds generally come on slower, while allergies are more immediate, for example if you walk outside and are exposed to pollen you are allergic to you might immediately start sneezing.  Allergies can last for months, while a cold should only last for 7-10 days.  Allergies never have a fever or body aches, while a cold can have both of these symptoms.  Allergies also can make your eyes itchy and watery which generally doesn’t happen with a cold.  Allergies are best treated by an antihistamine.  There are many over the counter medications that work great, and you should feel better right away after starting an allergy regimen.


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