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Cold, Allergies or Flu? Whats What and What to Do About It

February 12, 2018

It starts with a sneeze. Then comes the scratchy throat and stuffy nose. Then you feel just plain lousy. Is it a cold? The flu? Or maybe an allergy?

Here’s the low-down on what’s keeping you down.

The Not-So-Cool Cold

You can get a cold anytime — spring, summer, fall and especially winter. It’s the most frequent acute illness in the U.S. with adults reporting 2 to 3 colds annually. Most cold germs are transmitted by hand contact, and symptoms usually persist for 3-10 days, but occasionally up to two weeks. Cold sufferers rarely have a high fever, but more common symptoms are a stuffy nose, sore throat and cough. 

Treat a cold with acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches and antihistamines and/or decongestants for a stuffy nose.

Plenty of rest is always a good idea to get your immune system back into shape…and to keep you away from all those people you don’t feel like seeing anyway!

Cold symptoms

The Not-So-Friendly Flu

Flu season typically occurs in winter, running from November through March, although it’s possible to get the flu as early as October or as late as May.

Unlike a cold that comes on gradually, the flu (influenza) usually comes on quickly with an abrupt onset of fever, headache, body aches and fatigue that can be accompanied by cough, sore throat and nasal discharge. These symptoms usually persist for 4-5 days although fatigue can last up to three weeks.

If a physician diagnoses you with the flu within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, you can be prescribed Tamiflu, which can reduce the time and severity of the symptoms.Additional treatment consists of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches, and antihistamine and/or decongestants for nasal congestion. 

Again, rest is advised to help your medications work…and to take care of the fatigue that has been your constant companion for far too long.

Flu symptoms

The Why-Me Allergy

Anyone suffering from allergies can tell you exactly when allergy season begins. And if they don’t tell you, they give it away with an unexpected sneeze.

Allergies are typically seasonal with symptoms of sneezing, runny nose with postnasal drip, and itchy or teary eyes. Occasionally a dry cough can be present. These symptoms can persist for up to six weeks. Treatment consists of antihistamines and/or decongestants for runny nose.

Rest isn’t necessarily part of the treatment, but if you feel like taking a nap, go for it. You deserve every blissful minute.

Allergy symptoms


Concerned About Your Symptoms?

Your primary care physician can perform allergy tests and prescribe medications to help you deal with your symptoms. If you are in need of a primary care physician, use our search tool to find one located near you.

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