Updated: Dec 27, 2018
Discerning between a cold, a flu or allergies can stump even the most savvy of symptom sufferers. Oftentimes, the same symptoms can be shared between all three, so understanding the differences will ensure you’re choosing the best treatment.
Below we’ve outlined the differences between a cold, a flu or allergies so you can stay protected and aware no matter the season.
Is it a Cold?
Colds, flus and allergies can all affect the respiratory system, which can lead to difficult breathing.
Unlike a flu, a cold is less severe and caused by a different virus. However, both colds and flus can lead to a runny nose, congestion, cough and sore throat. A flu can also cause a high fever, which lasts for several days, along with headaches and general fatigue.
Colds should not last longer than 14 days. If your symptoms haven’t dissipated during this time, schedule a visit with your doctor. He or she will be able to accurately diagnose your symptoms and provide immediate treatment.
What About a Flu?
Flus are more severe than colds and allergy symptoms, and they usually accompany a fever and moderate body pains. Flus mimic the same symptoms of colds, but unlike colds, a flu can be life-threatening to the elderly, young children or those with compromised immune systems.
It’s important to get the flu vaccine each year in order to protect yourself and those around you from catching this illness.
Is It Allergies?
Allergies aren’t triggered by a virus; instead, it’s your body’s immune system reacting to an allergen or other trigger, usually something you’re allergic to. For example, if you’re allergic to pet dander, the immune cells in your nose could overreact to the dander, causing your respiratory tissue to swell, leading to a stuffy or runny nose.
Symptoms of allergies can last for weeks at a time, usually lasting around six weeks during the pollen season of spring, summer or fall. Unlike colds or flus, allergies can also cause itchy or watery eyes.
Additionally, you will never experience a fever or general body aches and pains with allergies. If you experience head or body aches, you may be experiencing a cold or flu. Speak to your doctor if you experience severe symptoms that you aren’t familiar with.
Traditional, over-the-counter allergy medications, including antihistamines, decongestants and nasal steroids, can alleviate allergy symptoms. As long as you’re in contact with the allergy trigger, you will experience allergy symptoms. Each year, opt to replace air filters, clean and dust around your home, and remove mold from bathrooms and kitchens.
Staying Protected Year-Round
Colds and allergies are generally non-life threatening, and most people recover in a few weeks’ time. However, flus can be severe and life-threatening for those with compromised immune systems, including children and the elderly. Choosing to receive your flu shot each year will ensure you’re protected.
If you’re feeling a little down this season, remember to drink plenty of fluids and rest often. If you have the flu, pain relievers, like Tylenol and ibuprofen, can alleviate many of the head and body pains that accompany traditional flu symptoms.
And, of course, schedule a doctor’s visit if you need one.
Dr. Ramesh Peramsetty -- along with his entire Crimson Care team -- is committed to making medical services convenient and accessible. Crimson Care Veterans is available seven days a week, with wait times of less than one hour. The clinic offers two Tuscaloosa locations: one on Veterans Memorial Parkway and the other on Skyland Boulevard. Both locations offer extended weekday hours and one-stop treatment services including medical care, x-rays, lab work, and prescription dispensing. In addition to physical convenience, Crimson Care also offers digital access through its online patient portal. With your own login credentials and a laptop, you can request prescription refills, complete any necessary patient forms online, review your medical records at any time, and even pay your bill. Check us out today on our website, or give us a call at Crimson Care Veterans: (205) 507-1100 Crimson Care Skyland: 205-507-1119.