Cold, Flu or Allergies

Maybe you've got those sniffles you get every year around this time, and you're doing your best to get some extra rest and settle down with a bowl of chicken soup. But you don't really know whether you have a cold or the flu, do you? And if you suffer from allergies, you need to factor that into your pain as well.

Just what really is behind your runny nose?

The hallmark of the common cold is its untreat-ability. No amount of antibiotics will help you against a cold, because a cold is borne of viruses that are immune to antibiotics. The only approach you can take against a cold is to treat the symptoms, which include:

  • Mild fatigue
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion, runny nose, sneezing
  • Watery eyes or nose
  • Head, chest or nasal congestion

A cold will pass on its own, usually within a week. Although you can catch a cold anytime, they are more common during the winter months. If you suffer from asthma, or if your cold hangs on past a week, seeyour doctor.

The flu – influenza – on the other hand, is a year-round viral infection that can be prevented with a vaccine. Its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, but there are some distinctions of which you should be aware.

The flu comes on very strong and very quickly, whereas a cold “just sort of creeps on you.” Influenza also brings its own special pain. A case of the flu will hit you harder with deep muscle pains in your large muscles, including your legs and back, whereas a cold usually just makes you feel achy.

Other influenza symptoms can include:

  • Whole body aches
  • High fever of over 101 degrees
  • Extreme exhaustion or fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Head, chest or nasal congestion

If you have the flu, you need medical treatment quickly. You will want to be on a regimen of anti-viral medications within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to reduce the chance for complications. These can include sinusitis, bronchitis or pneumonia.

If your sniffles don't accompany any other significant symptoms, then you are likely just suffering from seasonal allergies. They can, however, include the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny, itchy nose
  • Red, watery and itchy eyes
  • Head, chest or nasal congestion
  • Cough

Despite popular perception, seasonal allergies can come upon you at any stage in your life. Since they can also be an asthma trigger, it's important to see a doctor to have your condition checked.