The latest health news focuses on three respiratory infections or conditions that are often confusing. You’re sneezing, have a high-fever, sore throat, runny nose, a headache, itchy eyes, nausea, or feeling just plain lousy. Before you look in the medicine cabinet and begin popping OTC pills or downing copious amounts of cough syrup, do you know if what you have is a cold, the flu (influenza), or an allergy? The Ebola virus is something altogether different, and won’t be discussed in this post.
Fall is here and winter is just around the corner, which means cold and flu seasons have arrived as well. Allergies, depending on which type you suffer from, can affect you year-round. Research has found that oftentimes, sufferers of any of the above conditions make healing from allergies or viral infections worse. The primary reason, outside of doing nothing at all, is self-medicating using the wrong type of intervention. Here, it helps to know the differences between a cold virus, flu virus, or allergen.
NIH’s Dr. Teresa Hauguel, an expert on infectious diseases that affect breathing, weighed in on these often-confused viral and exposure ailments. She believes being armed with knowledge is a good start to recovery and prevention.
“If you know what you have, you won’t take medications that you don’t need, that aren’t effective, or that might even make your symptoms worse.”
Cold and flu infections are born out of the same type virus. Both are characterized by similar symptoms: runny nose, stuffy nose (congestion), sore throat, and a cough. However, generally speaking, you are more likely to have contracted the flu if symptoms come on suddenly, are present with a high-fever, aches/pain, and have longer duration.
The cold virus typically comes on gradually and you don’t feel as lousy. And while you may have similar symptoms to influenza, they are milder and last for shorter spans of time.
Allergies or allergic reactions are not caused by a virus or bacteria at all. Instead, what you’re experiencing is your body’s immune system reacting to something it perceives as a threat. In other words, your body’s defense system is triggered by a pathogen like pollen, pet dander, fumes, a food, fiber, medication or insect sting.
Similar to colds and flu, allergies can cause your nose to run, eyes to become watery and skin to become itchy, among other things. And depending on what you’re allergic to, it can be a life-threatening condition if anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock (closing of airways) sets in.
In order to treat a cold infection, over-the-counter medications are used to address the symptoms. Additionally, rest, fluids and balanced-diet is recommended.
“To treat colds or flu, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. If you have the flu, pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can reduce fever or aches. Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or decongestants,” according to News In Health.
Allergies are typically treated by identifying and removing the trigger. This takes consultation with a doctor who can perform allergy tests and prescribe the proper intervention. Shots, prescription or OTC meds can be part of the intervention of treatment.
Hopefully, this post gives you an idea of how to identify what you may be ailing from or how to increase prevention from infection or exposure. As always, consult with your doctor or medical professional, as this is not meant to be construed as medical advice.