How To Tell The Difference Between A Cold, Flu & Allergies
Coughing, sneezing and congestion, all usual signs of a cold, right? Ah, not necessarily, so you may want to reconsider the possibility that it could be the flu, or allergies that are the cause of these symptoms.
Cold and flu season usually overlap with allergy season. While pollen is notorious for causing allergies to act up in the spring, ragweed and mold spores can trigger symptoms in the fall. So is it possible to tell the difference between your average cold, allergies or the flu?
Absolutely, and knowing the difference between these three conditions is important so you know the correct treatments to start, so you can feel better, and get well faster.
Blow Your Nose
One easy way to tell the difference between a cold, flu, and allergies, is to look at your mucus color. If you’ve got a cold, you’ll have slightly discolored yellow or green mucus, where as the flu and allergies have a clear, watery nasal discharge.
Check Your Eyes
Those suffering from allergies tend to have red, itchy, watery, swollen eyes. Those with the flu tend to have closed eyes, because they're too weak to get up and look at their eyes.
Other Cold Symptoms
Some symptoms more specific to colds include headaches, sore throats, muscle aches, fevers, hoarse voice, laryngitis, sinus pressure, or clogged ears. Cold symptoms tend to last a few days to a week, unless you have a cough which could linger a couple weeks longer. If your sniffles are lasting longer, than it’s more likely you are dealing with allergies. I tell patients to track their colds, and if they discover they catch a cold every year around the same time, then it may actually be allergies instead.
May include: sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, runny nose, cough (post nasal drip), laryngitis, and sinus pressure. If the allergies are particularly bad, you can have a fever, but a prominent symptom of allergies is extreme fatigue.
Unless you get the stomach flu, the symptoms are more varied, but they come on fast, with intense body aches, fever, chills, nausea and some silly weird dreams. You may or may not have a dry cough. There’s just no bucking up, to go to work or school. Staying in bed is about all you can handle for at least 4-5 days, and then it can continue to linger for another few days, weeks, all dependant on how well you take care of yourself during your illness.
When Should You Go To The Doctor?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s good to get sick once every year or two. "Use it or lose it" can apply to your immune system. If it doesn’t get stirred up now and again, it tends to go into hibernation, making it more difficult to rally when you do become infected with some bug.
Hopefully, you're now able to determine whether you’ve got a cold, flu or allergies, but a good rule of thumb is, If your symptoms worsen, or continue for more than 10 days, see your doctor, which for those of you living in Tucson, would be me.