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Allergies, Flu or Cold: How to Tell the Difference

Although they share certain symptoms, there are easy ways to differentiate between cold, flu and allergies.

It's cold and flu season once again. But for those who also live with allergies, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between these illnesses.

To get a better understanding of the common cold, the flu and allergies, it's important to know the symptoms and causes of each one. That way, individuals will better understand how to treat their illness and recover more quickly.

Here are the common symptoms and causes for each of these three ailments and how to differentiate between them:

The Common Cold: Causes and Symptoms

Colds stem from a respiratory virus that can be transmitted between people through coughs, sneezes or touching something with the virus on it. Unfortunately, there is no cure for a cold, and they can​ last up to two weeks.

Common symptoms of colds include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Fever 
  • Congestion

But there are a few classic allergy symptoms that can help people understand whether they need bed rest or allergy medication. Unlike colds, allergy sufferers will often experience red or itchy eyes, and even break out with hives in certain situations. Additionally, allergy sufferers usually won't have a fever, which is more common for those dealing with a cold. The best treatment for a cold is getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated, according to the Mayo Clinic. Using over-the-counter drugs to fight sore throats or congestion can make colds more tolerable, but those suffering with them just have to let them run their course.

The Flu: Causes and Symptoms

Similar to colds, the flu is a viral infection, but symptoms are often more severe with the flu than with a cold.

Some common flu symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Sneezing
  • Intense aches and pains
  • Extreme fatigue

The good news is that the flu can be treated with antibiotics to help speed up the recovery process. To determine whether an individual has the flu or is experiencing allergies, he or she should think about what season it is and the duration of their illness, in addition to their symptoms. Flu season typically lasts from late fall to early spring while seasonal allergies can crop up anytime a person is exposed to a certain allergen, according to The Advocate. If an illness is recurring or has lasted more than a few weeks, there is a good chance a person is dealing with allergies instead of the flu. Additionally, fever, aches and fatigue will most likely present itself as a flu symptom, but it will not appear with seasonal allergies.

Similar to people who get the flu vaccine or take antibiotics, allergy sufferers can take over-the-counter medication to mitigate the severity of their symptoms. They can also consult with their doctor about the possibility of getting allergy shots.

Related posts:

  1. Allergies or a cold? How to tell the difference
  2. Do you have a cold or allergies? How to tell the difference
  3. How to tell if you have allergies or a cold
  4. How to determine whether symptoms are from a cold or allergies
  5. What’s the difference between seasonal allergies and the common cold?