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Can Allergies Mimic Flu Symptoms

Despite Symptoms Its Not The Flu

Virus going around with symptoms that mimic allergies

COVID-19 is not the flu.

As one of a class of pathogens known as coronaviruses, COVID-19 is actually more closely related to the common cold than the seasonal flu.

However, despite some overlap, the typical symptoms of COVID-19 are more similar to the flu than the common cold .

The Delta variant, however, may have more cold-like symptoms.

In terms of differentiating between flu and COVID-19, it can be almost impossible to distinguish, Dr. Jake Deutsch, co-founder and clinical director of Cure Urgent Care and Specialty Infusion in New York. Thats why people are recommended to have flu vaccinations so it can at least minimize the risk of flu in light of everything else.

Fevers, body aches, coughing, sneezing could all be equally attributed to them both, so it really means that if theres a concern for flu, theres a concern for COVID-19, Deutsch said.

When and where you get sick might be the best predictor of whether you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19, Yildirim said.

People living in communities with low vaccination rates and high rates of COVID-19 are more likely to have COVID-19, she said, especially outside of cold and flu season.

However, she said, differentiating becomes more difficult during the winter, when all three diseases may be widespread.

If you have a mild case of COVID-19, the flu, or a cold, treatment is geared toward management of symptoms, said Cutler.

Mild cases of COVID-19 are thought to last approximately 2 weeks, said Cutler.

Medical Conditions That Can Mimic Allergies

It’s important to know what’s causing your symptoms because treatment depends on the type of nasal inflammation. Some of the most important causes of nonallergic nasal inflammation, also called nonallergic rhinitis, include the following:

Irritants. Fumes, weather changes, emotional stress, and other factors can cause vasomotor rhinitis, or irritant rhinitis. These symptoms are similar to those of nasal allergies but aren’t caused by allergy or infection. Even certain medications, such as the high blood pressure medicines reserpine and prazosin, can result in the stuffy or runny nose of vasomotor rhinitis. Often the cause is not known. While doctors aren’t sure exactly why some people develop vasomotor rhinitis reactions, they know the blood vessels in the lining of the nose appear to be extra sensitive and swell up in response to irritants. Vasomotor rhinitis is more common in adults than in children.

Eosinophils. These are special blood cells that are part of the immune system. They are sometimes called “allergy cells.” They can play a role in nasal allergies, but large numbers are also present in people with nonallergic rhinitis.

Neutrophils. Like eosinophils, neutrophils are a type of blood cell. They seek out and destroy harmful substances in the body. As they do their work, they may trigger a stuffy nose and other symptoms. Most often, they’re present in large numbers during sinus infections.

Signs Your Cold Symptoms Actually Stem From An Allergy

If youre coughing and sneezing and have a sore throat, and youre like most people, youre probably confused about what your symptoms mean. Is it a cold? Allergies? Something worse?

Here at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care, those are some of the most common questions we get. The symptoms of colds and allergies are so similar, its hard to tell the difference.

Dr. James Lee, our experienced family physician, can help you understand the unique aspects of each so you can know whether your cold symptoms are actually allergy symptoms.

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Milder Than Flu But Still Poses A Health Risk

Adenovirus infections are typically mild and do not pose the same health threat as influenza. During the last flu season, more than 80,000 people died from influenza-related complications.

The damage that the flu can cause is on a different scale than basically any other virus that we know, says Dr. Adalja.

People who die from adenovirus are usually immunocompromised, according to Adalja. They may have had an organ transplant or condition that weakens their immune system.

Influenza can take a perfectly healthy young adult or child and put them in the emergency room in 24 hours, Dr. Schaffner says. This is not likely to happen with adenovirus infections, unless you have a compromised immune system.

In the fall of 2018, adenovirus took the life of an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Maryland and infected at least 30 other students, according to an article published December 7, 2018, in the Baltimore Sun. The student who died had been taking medication for Crohns disease, which may have compromised her immune system.

In November 2018, 11 children with underlying medical conditions died in an adenovirus outbreak at a healthcare facility in Haskell, New Jersey, according to an .

Treatment For Adenovirus Versus The Flu

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If a person does get adenovirus, there is no specific treatment other than to rest and stay hydrated.

For the flu, there are four Food and Drug Administration approved antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC: oseltamivir , peramivir, zanamivir , and baloxavir marboxil .

Adalja points out that there are a few other viruses besides adenovirus that cause flu-like symptoms. They include respiratory syncytial virus, coronaviruses, and rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold.

Flu usually causes chills and body aches and higher fever than some of these other infections, but its really hard to tell without doing a test, says Adalja.

The CDC says that adenoviruses may also cause diarrhea, conjunctivitis , bladder inflamation or infection, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, bronchitis, and neurologic disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord.

Both influenza and adenoviruses are easily spread. To protect yourself, the CDC encourages frequent hand-washing not touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and avoiding contact with those who are sick.

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Is It Allergies Or Covid 4 Ways To Tell

Millions of Americans experience seasonal allergies. In the fall, ragweed pollen is often the culprit. Mold is also a typical trigger for autumn allergies.

Here’s why: Rotting leaves provide an excellent home for mold. This fungi thrives in moist, damp environments, and the tiny spores it releases into the air can cause nasal congestion, runny noses, sneezing, and watery, itchy eyes that people with allergies often experience.

And with COVID still spreading in our communities, it can be difficult to tell the difference between typical allergy symptoms and something more serious.

If you have a known history of allergies, consider this: If you do not have a fever, try a stepwise approach with using your usual treatments, such as long-acting antihistamines or nasal sprays, Rajani said.

Where Does Covid Fit In

Nasal congestion and sneezing can happen with the flu and COVID-19, but are more common with respiratory allergies. Fevers almost never occur with allergies, but are common with the flu and COVID.

Many people infected with COVID develop a loss of taste or smell. COVID can also develop with no symptoms at all. COVID symptoms typically take longer to start and last longer than flu symptoms, while allergy symptoms can come and go as pollen counts rise and fall.

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Do You Have A Cold The Flu Or Allergies

The above table details the symptom differences between all three conditions.

The common symptoms of a cold, flu and allergies are a stuffy or a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or even fatigue. Two differing symptoms are a fever or aches/pain, these would not be caused by allergies, but could be due to a cold or the flu. Symptoms of the flu are often more severe than a cold.

While the symptoms are similar, the origin of the conditions are different. A cold and the flu are both caused by different viruses, whereas allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a trigger. Common inhalant allergy triggers are pollen, dust, mold, pet dander.

See related: Is it a cold? Or is it Allergies?

Is It Too Late To Get Vaccinated

Virus going around with symptoms that mimic allergies

When it comes to COVID-19 and the flu, know that it’s not too late to be vaccinated for either or both at the same time.

Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines take a few weeks to build up an immune response and provide the most protection. So if you haven’t gotten those vaccines yet, getting them now is the best way to be protected in the future.

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What Are Summer Allergies

Well, most people associate allergies with the pollen released during the spring season, but if you are still experiencing sneezing, coughing and slight congestion, worry not as you might be suffering from Summer Allergies. Summer comes with a list of woes of its own and hay fever in the form of allergies top it all.

Hay Fever, gets its name from hay-cutting season, which is traditionally done in the summer months. But the real culprits of summertime seasonal allergies are grasses, such as ryegrass and timothy grass, as well as certain weeds that release pollen dust causing allergic reactions in many people.

When Should You Get Tested

“One of the biggest things is you want to avoid self-diagnosing. That means if you’re displaying any symptoms, you want to go ahead and get tested,” Torres said. And, again, you should assume you have COVID-19 until your test says otherwise.

When you get tested, depending on your symptoms and what your COVID-19 test results are, you might also get tested for the flu or strep throat.

The best home treatments for any of these illnesses depend on the exact symptoms you’re experiencing. Torres shared some advice about over-the-products that can help, but always check with your health care provider first.

  • Fever and body aches: Use pain- and fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Congestion: For a stuffy nose, use an over-the-counter decongestant like guaifenesin .
  • Fatigue: Make sure you stay hydrated, get enough electrolytes and rest up. “Sleep is one of your biggest aids you can use right now that lets your body recuperate and regenerate itself so it can protect you and it keeps your immune system strong,” Torres said.
  • Difficulty breathing: If you experience any difficulty breathing or shortness of breath or if your symptoms get worse rather than improving, you should speak with a doctor, Torres said.

Recommended Reading: Can Allergies Cause Shortness Of Breath And Chest Tightness

Fever With Allergy Symptoms

When you develop congestion, regardless of the cause, the buildup of mucus in your sinuses can be a breeding ground for bacteria. When an infection takes hold, you can be hit with a fever that can last for several days.

Congestion can be the result of sinusitis, allergies, or something more serious, such as the flu virus. Its sometimes hard to know whats causing your symptoms, because a cold or flu can mimic many of the signs of an allergy.

Discovering exactly whats causing your symptoms, even if theyre mild, is important. Once you know the cause of your symptoms, you can start an effective treatment plan. And, in the case of an allergy, you can take steps to prevent symptoms or flare-ups in the future.

The key, however, is a proper diagnosis.

Treating The Common Cold

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Your body will get rid of the cold virus over time. Since antibiotics only kill bacteria, they wont work on the viruses that cause colds. Still, there are medications that can help relieve your symptoms while a cold runs its course.

Cold remedies include:

Cough syrups and OTC medications arent recommended for children under 4 years old, while nasal sprays arent recommended for children under age 6.

Ask your doctor before taking any OTC cold medication, especially if you also take prescription medications, have any existing health conditions, or are pregnant.

Dont use cold medications for a long period of time. Using them for extended periods can cause side effects such as rebound congestion.

You can also try home treatments to relieve a cold, such as:

  • drinking more fluids like water, juice, and herbal tea
  • loratadine-pseudoephedrine

Decongestants come in pills and nasal sprays. However, nasal decongestants such as oxymetazoline can make your congestion worse if you use them for more than three days in a row.

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What Is The Difference Between Influenza And Covid

Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 should slow down. More information is available about COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work.

Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, there are still things, such as post-COVID conditions, that are unknown. This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

Diagnosing Colds And Allergies

You dont need to see your doctor for a cold, but if you do make an appointment, your symptoms will likely be enough for them to confirm your diagnosis.

If your doctor thinks you might have a bacterial infection such as strep throat or pneumonia, you might need other tests such as a throat culture or chest X-ray.

For allergies, you may need to see a primary care doctor, an ear-nose-throat doctor, or an allergist. The doctor will first ask about your symptoms. Severe or life-threatening allergic reactions often require the care of an allergy specialist.

A variety of tests can be used to diagnose allergies. A skin test can be used to determine your allergy triggers. Sometimes primary doctors or allergy specialists may also use blood tests to diagnose allergies depending on your age and other health conditions.

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How To Prevent Illness

COVID-19 is spread person-to-person. Primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes and produces droplets into the air. It can also spread between individuals who are within 6 feet of each other. The droplets and contact cause the virus to be inhaled. Additionally the close contact touching can result in it being spread to the eyes, mouth, nose when individuals invariably touch their face.

CDC and common sense recommendations to help prevent illness and the spread of the virus include:

Clean hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds . If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your face and others. Especially with unwashed hands. Face touching is a common problem, so you must be vigilant about limiting it.

Limit close contact with others. This is especially true if you suspect you may be sick or suspect someone else of being sick. In addition practice limiting social gatherings where large groups may be together. The less social contact during this time the better potential outcomes we should see. If you are sick and cannot stay home, wear a mask when possible.

Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly. All surfaces you frequently touch should be regularly washed and disinfected. This includes handles, doorknobs, counters, phones, keyboards, and sinks.

Could It Be A Cold Or Allergies

Cold virus mimics allergy symptoms

Like flu and COVID-19, colds are also caused by viruses and can be passed to others.

Symptoms of a cold tend to be mild. You may have a runny nose, cough, congestion, and sore throat. But you wont usually have the aches and fever that are common with COVID-19 and flu. Often, youll feel better in a couple of days.

Theres no cure for the common cold. Typical treatments include rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medicines. Some complementary treatments may help with cold symptoms, too. Taking honey may help with nighttime cough for children over 1 year old. Rinsing your nose and sinuses can help with congestion. You can use a neti pot or other nasal rinsing device. Be sure to only use water thats been properly processed, such as distilled or boiled water, not tap water. Nasal rinses can bring relief for both cold and allergies.

Allergies can cause a runny nose and sneezing. But theyre not contagious. If your eyes, nose, or ears itch, that also could be an allergy.

Exposure to things like dust, pets, and tree or grass pollen can trigger allergies, which are caused by the immune systemThe system that protects your body from invading viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic threats. overreacting.

Allergy symptoms tend to stop when youre no longer exposed to the cause. Unless you have asthma, allergies typically do not cause breathing problems. Allergies can be treated with drugs like antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids.

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With Omicron It May Be Harder To Tell If You Have Covid The Common Cold Or Flu


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It starts with a sneeze, maybe a sniffle.

You think to yourself, its just mild allergies or a minor cold. Youre not worried about covid-19, because the symptoms dont match up with the distinct, often severe indicators of covid-19: joint aches, violent coughing, a fever or chill, and the dreaded loss of ability to taste or smell.

But with the omicron variant now the dominant strain in the United States infecting the unvaccinated and fully inoculated alike, health experts warn the symptoms that previously helped people to gauge whether they had a cold, flu or covid-19 are no longer the useful marker they once were.

Making risks assessments on whether to travel, gather with others or get tested for the coronavirus based on symptoms is not going to work anymore, said Emily Landon, the chief infectious-disease epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine.

Complicating matters is that pandemic-fatigued populations must once again revise what they thought they knew about the coronavirus. Health experts said grids and infographics that suggest certain symptoms are particular to one virus or another, which are popular on social media, may have at one point been helpful but are now outdated with the rise of omicron.

Its confirmation bias, Landon said.

In this omicron-dominant season, symptoms of cold, flu or covid-19 are overlapping to a large degree .

When in doubt, test it out.


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