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Cold or Flu: How to Tell the Difference and Get Relief

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By    |   Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017 01:01 PM

It’s the flu season and you feel down for the count. But do you know for sure if you’ve got the dreaded flu, a common cold, or even an allergy?

Without having a rapid flu test done by your doctor, it can be hard to tell. But knowing the difference, and treating the condition appropriately, can save you needless expense and discomfort.

“Both the common cold, influenza, and certain allergies can include upper respiratory symptoms such as sinus congestion, runny nose, sore throat and cough, as well as systemic symptoms such as fever,” says Dr. Andy Nish, of NGPG Allergy and Asthma in Georgia.

“With the flu, however, symptoms tend to come on quickly and can be more severe than the common cold. And allergy symptoms tend to appear year round in the case of dust mites and animal allergies.”

It’s important to pinpoint your condition so that you can take the appropriate medications and treatment, Nish tells Newsmax Health.

“If you think you have the flu, it’s crucial to see your physician within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms because that’s when medicines such as Tamiflu are the most effective,” he says.

Colds and flu are caused by different viruses and, as a rule, the symptoms associated with the flu are more severe. For example, you may feel achy when you have a cold, but your joints and muscles can actually hurt when you have the flu and chances are you can also run a high fever that lasts for days.

“Allergies aren’t caused by a virus but by your body’s immune system reacting to a trigger, or allergen. If you have allergies and breathe in things like pollen and pet dander, the immune cells in your nose and airway may overreact to these harmless substances. Your delicate respiratory tissues may then swell and your nose may become stuffed or runny,” says Nish.

“Allergies can also cause itchy, watery eyes which you don’t normally have with the cold or flu.”

Allergy symptoms usually last as long as you are exposed to the allergen which may be about six weeks during pollen season in the spring, summer or fall. Colds and flu rarely last beyond two weeks.

Most people with a cold or flu recover on their own without medical care, but always check with a health care provider if your symptoms last beyond 10 days are seem to be getting worse. To treat colds and flu, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.

Taking Tamiflu within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms can help you get better faster. Use over-the-counter medications as recommended by your doctor to treat the symptoms of cold and flu.

Pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce fever or aches. Make sure that taking these OTC products doesn’t interfere with your existing medication, however.

For allergies, try antihistamines or decongestants. Again, check with your health care provider as some of these medications can dangerously raise blood pressure.

And be sure to avoid “drug overlap” when taking medication that lists two or more ingredients. For example, if you take two different drugs that contain acetaminophen —one for a stuffy nose and one for a headache — you may be taking too much.

To prevent colds, wash your hands often and avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold. To prevent getting the flu, many experts recommend getting the flu vaccine and again, washing hands often. To avoid allergies, find out what your specific allergens and try to avoid the triggers.

Here’s a quick summary of the different symptoms of colds, flu and allergies:

Fever: Typical with the flu, but rare with a cold, and seldom, if ever, in airborne allergy.

Headache: Uncommon with colds or allergies, but a typical symptom of the flu.

Aches and pains: Often severe with the flu, and less so with colds. Uncommon in allergies.

Cough: Commonly caused by cold and flu viruses, can become severe with influenza; sometime occurs with allergies.

Sneezing: Usual when you have a cold or allergies; less common with the flu.

Sore throat: Common with colds, and sometimes with flu or allergies.

Extreme exhaustion: Usually occurs with the flu, but rarely with colds or allergies.

Stuffy, runny nose: Typical symptom with colds and allergies, but can sometimes occur with the flu.

© 2017 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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Cold, flu, and allergies can all cause some of the same miserable symptoms. But knowing the difference, and treating the condition appropriately, can save you needless expense and discomfort. Here's how to tell.
cold, flu, differences, treat
Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017 01:01 PM
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