Is it a cold, the flu, or allergies?
This time of year, we may get the sniffles, start sneezing, and a get sore throat. But, Is it a cold, flu, or allergies? It can be hard to tell them apart because they share so many symptoms. But understanding the differences will help you choose the best treatment.
If you don’t know which it is, you may take medications that aren’t effective or that make your symptoms even worse. So, how can you tell which is which? They all make it hard to breathe, but there are other symptoms that set them apart from each other.
Anyone who has had the flu knows that symptoms are much more severe than having a cold. Both can lead to a runny, stuffy nose, congestion, cough and sore throat. But if you have the flu, you can also get a high fever that lasts for 3-4 days, plus body aches and severe fatigue, and shortness of breath. Dizziness, vomiting, and even confusion are also signs of having the flu
With allergies, your body is reacting to a trigger, or allergen, which is something you’re allergic to, and not a virus. The most common seasonal allergy this time of year is ragweed. Though it usually starts to release pollen with cool nights and warm days in August, it can last into September and October. About 75% of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed.
Allergies can also cause itchy, watery eyes, which you don’t normally have with a cold or flu. Allergy symptoms usually last as long as you’re exposed to the allergen, which may be about six weeks during pollen seasons in the spring, summer, or fall. Colds and flu rarely last beyond two weeks.
Most people with a cold or flu can recover on their own without medical care. But if you are at a higher risk for complications from the flu (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions), it’s best for you to contact your doctor.
Check with your doctor if symptoms last more than 10 days or if you aren’t getting any relief from over-the-counter medicines.
Drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest, whether it’s a cold or the flu. If you have a fever, pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce fever.
Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or decongestants.
No matter what symptoms you are treating, be careful to avoid “drug overlap” when taking medicines that list 2 or more active ingredients on the label. For example, if you take two different drugs that contain acetaminophen—one for a stuffy nose and the other for headache—you may be getting too much acetaminophen.
Read medicine labels for the warnings, side effects, dosages. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or one of our pharmacists. You don’t want to over medicate, and you don’t want to risk taking a medication that may interact with another.
Don’t forget, we offer flu shots at both of our pharmacies. No appointment is needed! Just stop by during our regular store hours and we’ll take care of you so you don’t get sick in the first place.
Source: National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control