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How to tell the difference between the common cold and allergies

March 13, 2018

Spring is creeping up on us, and we all know what that means: allergy season (especially in Western Oklahoma!) 


With allergy season coming right in at the tail of the cold and flu season, if you come down with upper respiratory symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, or sore throat, you may be wondering, "Is it a cold or is it allergies?"

Hopefully we can help you identify the differences to treat your symptoms properly.


While cold and flu are caused by a virus that invades your body, allergy symptoms are your body's response to certain allergens (such as pollen and ragweed) that make their way in. When your body senses these materials that you may be allergic to, your immune system triggers a response to keep them out, whereas you body's immune system actively fights a virus.


Because of this difference, the symptoms of cold and flu are often much worse, though they last for a shorter period of time. During allergy season, allergy symptoms may last for up to 6 weeks. For cold and flu, the symptoms often last for no more than 2 weeks.


While the two share similar symptoms like runny nose, congestion, and sore throat, there are several symptoms that can quickly establish whether you have a virus or are experience allergies.


With a virus, you may experience fever, headache, fatigue, and aches/pains. You won't experience these with allergies.


With allergies, you may experience itchy and/or watery eyes, which you will not experience with a virus.


Cold, flu, and allergies are all conditions that usually resolve themselves without medical treatment. Plenty of rest and fluids are encouraged.


If you are experiencing symptoms, over-the-counter medications can help relieve them. For cold and flu, Tylenol, ibuprofen, and decongestants are recommended. For allergies, antihistamines and decongestants are recommended.


Be careful to prevent drug overlap when taking over-the-counter medications. Read the labels carefully as some medicines may contain more than one drug.


Both viruses and allergies can cause complications that may require medical treatment. Be sure to watch out for sinus and middle ear infections. If you have the flu, watch out for bronchitis and pneumonia (find out how to tell the difference). If you feel you are experiencing either of these, be sure to see your doctor.

Sunshine Home Care is an Altus, OK home health agency serving most of Western Oklahoma. For more information on our agency, please visit here or contact us today.


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