Sometimes illnesses share common symptoms. People with allergies, colds, and the flu often get coughs, headaches, and built up sinus pressure. It can be difficult to know how to take care of yourself if you don’t know what is making you sick.
In this article you will learn the definition of allergies, colds, and the flu. You will also learn about their symptoms, and how you can differentiate between them. Guidelines will be given to help you determine when to seek medical advice.
Allergies are defined as an overreaction of the immune system to a previously encountered, ordinarily harmless substance, resulting in skin rash, swelling of mucous membranes, sneezing or wheezing, or other abnormal conditions. Common symptoms of allergies are:
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Itchy, watery eyes
• Pressure in the sinus cavity
• Dark circles under the eyes
Allergy symptoms are similar to cold and flu symptoms. There are a few differences though. People with allergies usually suffer alone. When a cold or flu is spreading, many people get sick at the same time. Allergies also occur in the spring and summer. Colds and flu are more common in fall and winter.
Sometimes, allergies can develop into secondary infection. Sinusitis and bronchitis are the most common secondary infections associated with allergies. If over the counter medicine is not helping to alleviate your symptoms, and you are continuously feeling worse, it may be time to seek medical advice.
Colds are defined as having a low grade temperature, feeling chilled. The most common symptoms of colds are:
• Mild fatigue
• Stuffy nose
• Sore throat
• Mild to moderate cough
Cold symptoms, like influenza, are caused by viruses. Common viruses associated with colds are rhinovirus, coronavirus, RSV, adenovirus, Coxsackie virus, and echovirus.
• Rhinovirus is responsible for about 50% of all colds. It is seasonal, and multiplies quickly in crowded settings. School children are most commonly infected with rhinovirus.
• Coronavirus causes SARS which is an acute respiratory syndrome. People with SARS develop high fevers, diarrhea, and pneumonia. SARS is considered a fatal illness.
• RSV is a cold virus that attacks the lower respiratory tract. Children tend to get RSV more often than adults.
• Adenovirus is known for causing summer colds. People often don’t know if they are sick or just have allergies.
• Coxsackie virus and echovirus both cause high fevers, severe sore throats, and terrible coughs.
Most colds go away within a week or two. If your symptoms are getting worse after the first week, it is probably a good idea to talk to your doctor. Colds cause the sniffles. They usually do not cause swelling and inflammation. These are signs that something more serious may be happening, and warnings to seek medical advice.
The flu is defined as an infection of the respiratory system caused by 3 types of viruses. Once the flu virus has begun to spread, symptoms follow quickly. Flu season is from November to February. Symptoms of the flu include:
• High fever that last for 3 to 4 days
• Aches and pains
• Extreme fatigue
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Sore throat
The flu begins with a sudden high fever. Symptoms appear suddenly, without warning. Congestion and sore throat are common with the flu virus. Extreme exhaustion can last for up to 4 weeks, as severe coughs drain energy and challenge breathing.
Telling the difference between allergies, colds, and flu can be challenging. It is important to consider the timing of your symptoms. If they are severe and appeared within a few hours, it is probably the flu. The season when you get sick is also important. Allergies are more common in spring and summer. Colds season is from fall to spring. Influenza is a winter virus. The most telling factor to help determine if you have the flu is the severity of your symptoms. People with the flu are often too weak to complain.
Many complications result from the flu. It is important to monitor your condition, and let others know you are sick. The flu can be dangerous. If you get to sick to call for help, it is vital that someone is checking in on you. It is also important to seek medical advice if you have pre-existing conditions that can be irritated by the flu. As the immune system gets compromised, other conditions may develop unexpected problems.