Health TipsOctober 1 2018

Flu, Cold or Allergies? Know the Symptoms

A man in a yellow shirt thinks with question marks all around him

The season for sniffles is in full swing. But, before you run to the store and buy medicine to treat a cold, make sure you know the cause of your symptoms. Differentiating between a flu, cold or allergies can be difficult because they have similar symptoms.

Seasonal Flu Symptoms

The flu usually begins quickly. The first symptoms are a fever between 102 and 106°F. (An adult usually has a lower fever than a child.)

Other common symptoms include:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Flushed face
  • Headache
  • Lack of energy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue, exhaustion and weakness
  • Chest discomfort and cough

Between day 2 and day 4 of the illness, the fever and "whole body" symptoms begin to fade.

Then breathing symptoms begin to increase. The symptom is usually not a dry cough. Most people also develop a sore throat and headache. Runny nose and sneezing are common. It is a clear, watery nasal discharge.

These symptoms (except the cough) usually go away in 4 - 7 days. Sometimes, the fever returns. The cough and feeling tired may last for weeks. Some people may not feel like eating.

The flu can make asthma, breathing problems, and other long-term illnesses worse.

The Common Cold Symptoms

The common cold is the most common upper respiratory tract infection. More than 200 different viruses can cause colds. Symptoms usually develop 1 - 3 days after being exposed to the virus.

  • It nearly always starts rapidly with throat irritation and stuffiness in the nose.
  • Within hours, full-blown cold symptoms usually develop, which can include sneezing, mild sore throat, fever, minor headaches, muscle aches, and coughing.
  • Fever is low-grade or absent. In small children, however, fever may be as high as 103 °F for 1 or 2 days. The fever should go down after that time, and be back to normal by the 5th day.
  • Nasal discharge is usually clear and runny the first 1 - 3 days. It then thickens and becomes yellow to greenish.
  • The sore throat is usually mild and lasts only about a day. A runny nose usually lasts 2 - 7 days, although coughing and nasal discharge can persist for more than 2 weeks.

Allergy Symptoms

The following are just a few allergy symptoms you could experience.

  • No fever
  • Breathing problems
  • Burning, tearing or itchy eyes
  • Conjunctivitis (red, swollen eyes)
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Itching of the nose, mouth, throat, skin or any other area
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing

If you think that you are suffering from allergies, a cold or flu, then make an appointment to see your doctor. If you need a doctor, let us help you find one. Your physician may perform allergy tests and prescribe medications to help you deal with your symptoms. People who become very sick with the flu may want to see a health care provider. People who are at high risk for flu complications may also want to see a doctor if they get the flu.

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