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The Difference Between Cold, Flu and Allergy Symptoms


Cooler weather can be welcome after a particularly hot summer, but the colder seasons often bring sneezing, runny noses, and other flu-like symptoms. The onset of a sickness can be a confusing time, but identifying the difference between cold, flu, and allergy symptoms is easier than many of us realize. Initially, recognizing the severity of your symptoms is usually the best way to determine what they are. For example, allergies can certainly mimic a cold, but they will never cause a fever. Cold symptoms are much milder than those associated with the flu.

Although there is no surefire way, without testing conducted by a doctor, to identify one illness over the other, the following five signs can help point towards a clearer cause for your symptoms.

Length of Symptoms

A cold can be anywhere from 3 days to two weeks in duration, while allergy symptoms often last much longer. Pollen can be in the air for weeks, which means that as long as the allergy sufferer continues to be exposed, they will display symptoms. The flu differs from the common cold in that flu symptoms come on abruptly, while cold symptoms are much more gradual.

Time of Year

If it’s the winter, chances are that your symptoms are probably related to a cold or flu. Allergy symptoms usually occur immediately after exposure to pollens, typically in the spring, summer, or fall. Both the cold and flu occur more commonly in winter months, with the cold mimicking allergies in its sudden onset while the flu tends to take longer for symptoms to appear.

Fever/Muscle Aches

A fever is rare with a cold, virtually impossible with allergies, and almost always occurring with the flu. Lethargy, muscle aches, headache, and cough almost always occur as part of flu-like symptoms, while sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat are most common in a cold. Despite the misleading name, “hay fever,” seasonal allergies rarely, if ever, cause body aches. Nasal Discharge

If mucus is green or yellow, this typically indicates an infection or cold. Seasonal allergies typically produce clear nasal secretions, although some allergy sufferers who develop sinus infections may have yellow nasal discharge. Nasal congestion occurs sometimes with the flu, although chest discomfort and coughing are more commonly recognized symptoms.

Itchy Nose

Although the three illnesses can easily be confused for one another, an itchy nose is the single symptom that is often the result of allergies. Often called “the allergic salute” in children, allergy sufferers often push or wipe their noses to relieve itchiness. This indicates that an irritant (often pollen) is present and may be exacerbating a person’s symptoms.

Allergies, cold, and flu are all respiratory illness that look the same but differ in severity. Cold symptoms usually pass without incident, but allergies can be chronic while flu symptoms can sometimes have accompanying, often serious, complications. It’s always a good idea to visit a physician who can perform tests to determine your specific type of illness and tell you how to treat it. For more information on cold, flu, or allergy symptoms call Marvel today at 931-230-7056.

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