Runny nose, cough, feeling tired. What’s wrong with you? Colds, flu, and allergies all have these same symptoms, so how can you tell what’s going on?
“Common Cold” is caused by a virus. You may have a cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and fatigue. You typically don’t have a high fever or itchy eyes with a cold.
Flu is also from a virus and presents as a cough and nasal congestion, but flu typically also causes intense fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and often a high fever.
Airborne allergies cause nasal congestion and often itchy, watery eyes. There usually are no fevers or body aches. Allergies are caused by your body’s immune system overreacting to something in the environment – dust, dander, and pollens are common airborne allergens.
- Since colds and flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics won’t work against them. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections.
- If you have high fever and muscle aches, it’s a good idea to see your doctor right away – antiviral medications can be prescribed to reduce the severity and length of time your flu lasts.
- For both colds and flu, rest and drinking lots of fluids are important. Soup counts as a fluid. Warm fluids, such as tea (or broth or soup) can help break up the congestion.
- Allergy symptoms may be reduced by using antihistamines or decongestants. Again, please check with your healthcare provider about whether use of these products is okay for you.
Emergency conditions (Call 911 if you develop the following symptoms):
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Tightness or pain in your chest
- Dizziness or fainting
- Hallucinations or confusion
- Can’t get out of bed or falling down
- Get an annual flu shot
- Avoid crowds or sick people
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often, especially after contact with public facilities
Marla LeFevre, RN
Director of Health Services
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