Is It A Cold The Flu Allergies Or Covid
Nov. 2, 2020 — In the past, a cough or sore throat would have been a pretty obvious sign that you’d caught a cold or the flu. During this year’s cold and flu season, you also have to wonder whether you have COVID-19. It’s an important distinction to make. Not only can the new coronavirus cause severe complications, but it’s also highly contagious.
Respiratory illnesses can share so many of the same symptoms — a fever, chills, coughing, tiredness, a sore throat, body aches, a headache, and a stuffed nose — so it’s not easy to tell the difference.
“Unfortunately, there is such a huge overlap between the symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory viral illnesses that most of us think it is largely impossible to tell one from another from symptoms alone,” says Lisa Maragakis, MD, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Health System.
One symptom that could point you to COVID-19 is the loss of taste and smell, says Monica Lypson, MD, a professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “We don’t see those with the other viruses.” Though you might have a gradual, subtle dulling of taste and smell with a cold, COVID is a much more rapid and dramatic loss of these senses, she says.
Another thing that’s different about the new coronavirus is that it can affect blood vessels and cause blood clots. That shows up as symptoms like chest pressure or pain and a severe headache, Lypson says.
Wondering If You Have A Head Cold Or Allergies
Some people dread winter, not because of the chilly weather and the minimal daylight, but because everyone seems to be sick.
The common cold is one such culprit. Research suggests that the average healthy adult catches two or three colds a year, and this number is even higher for children. If you start to feel a little under the weather in the winter monthsespecially if someones been hacking up a lung at workyou might reasonably assume youve picked up the bug.
While that line of thought is certainly rational, a cold might not be the right explanation. The symptoms of allergies frequently mirror those of the common cold. To distinguish whether you have a head cold or allergies, youll need to consider your symptoms along with the causes of each health problem.
How You Can Treat Allergic Rhinitis Yourself
You can often treat allergic rhinitis without seeing a GP.
If you can, try to avoid the things that trigger your allergies.
A pharmacist can also advise you about medicines that can help, such as:
- to unblock your nose
- salt water nasal sprays or solutions to rinse out the inside of your nose
You can buy nasal sprays without a prescription, but they should not be used for more than a week as this can make your symptoms worse.
If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
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Is It Flu Covid
Staying Healthy This Winter
Feeling sick can be especially concerning these days. Could your sniffles be caused by COVID-19? Or the flu? A cold? Or maybe allergies?
Determining the cause of an illness can be tricky because many share some symptoms. They can leave you sniffling, coughing, and feeling tired. But there are important differences.
Figuring out whats making you sick can help you recover and prevent spreading sickness to others.
Protect Yourself Against Colds The Flu And Covid
“One way to avoid the diagnostic dilemma is to make sure you get the flu vaccine, or, if you’re older, that you’re up to date on your pneumonia vaccine,” says Lypson. “In both flu and coronavirus, you can end up in the hospital. And what we want to do is maintain our hospital operations for not only people who are sick with the coronavirus, but also everybody else who needs to use our medical services.”
Since all upper respiratory illnesses — colds, the flu, and COVID-19 — spread through respiratory droplets, taking the same precautions that health experts recommend to prevent COVID-19 should also spare you from those other infections. Wear a mask over your nose and mouth, keep at least 6 feet away from other people, and wash your hands often.
Practice extra caution during the holiday season. “The concern is that many people travel to visit family and friends,” Maragakis says. “We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is increasing, and frankly is out of control in many parts of our country.” She adds that being indoors in gatherings of more than 10 or 15 people poses a high risk of transmitting the virus. This might be one year when you stay at home and see your family virtually via a Zoom dinner.
CDC: “CDC’s Diagnostic Multiplex Assay for Flu and COVID-19 at Public Health Laboratories and Supplies,” “Diagnosing Flu,” “Frequently Asked Questions,” “How to Protect Yourself and Others,” “Similarities and Differences Between Flu and COVID-19.”
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How To Treat Colds Vs Allergies
Since the symptoms of colds and allergies are similar, so will their treatments. “For most run-of-the-mill allergy or cold symptoms, the treatments are about the same, so it really doesn’t matter too much if you try to tell them apart,” Dr. Rosenstreich said.
The main difference is that allergies won’t affect others. “With a cold, you probably don’t want to go into work and make everyone else sick, whereas with allergies, people will just tell you not to come near them, but you’re not actually contagious,” Dr. Rosenstreich explained.
Both allergy and cold treatments are what’s called symptomatic, Dr. Rosenstreich added, meaning they won’t make the issue go away. They’ll only treat the symptoms that are making you miserable. Experts typically recommend over-the-counter oral decongestants and antihistamines as well as nasal sprays to reduce inflammation and congestion in both cases, Dr. Parikh said.
If you’ve got a coldor another virusthat’s causing body aches or a fever, you might also want to try something to ease the pain and lower your temperature, like acetaminophen or aspirin, Dr. Metcalfe added.
While getting plenty of rest can help you get over a cold, it won’t do much for allergies. However, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, no matter your issue. “Dehydration makes allergies and colds worse,” Dr. Parikh said. “Fluids help relieve congestion.”
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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Similarities Between Colds And Allergies
Many people mistake allergies for colds because they have similar symptoms. A runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, fatigue and even a sore throat could indicate either a head cold or allergies. Additionally, both colds and allergies trigger a similar immune system response in the body.
While colds or allergies can manifest at any point in the year, they both frequently strike during the winter months. Thus, the time of year may not be a reliable indicator of which problem you are experiencing.
What Is A Summer Cold
There are many hundred strains of rhinovirus that are responsible for causing the common cold. Catching a specific strain of rhinovirus virus will help you produce immunity to that one strain. However, people still catch colds several times in a year and throughout their lifetime due to infection with other viral strains.
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Do You Have A Cold Or Allergies
Reviewed By Carol DerSarkissian, MD
It’s easy to get them confused. Just ask Paul Ehrlich, MD, a professor of pediatrics at New York University. He’d been an allergist for years when he came down with what he thought was a cold. “I’d had a watery, runny nose for several days when one of my patients took a look at me and said, ‘Oh, you have allergies, too!'” Ehrlich says.
He’d never had allergies before, but a checkup with another doctor confirmed that the patient was right. “Turns out I was allergic to birch trees, which were in bloom at the time,” he says.
A cold is an infection caused by a virus. Allergies are your immune system’s reaction to a substance like pollen or pet dander. Because the two conditions cause similar symptoms, like sniffles and stuffiness, many people get them mixed up. Knowing which is which can help you get the right treatment, and that will help you feel better faster.
Complications Of Allergic Rhinitis
If you have allergic rhinitis, there’s a risk you could develop further problems.
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Can A Cold Or Flu Cause Allergies
An allergy is an inflammatory immune response to specific foods or something in the environment, known as an allergen. Colds and flu are caused by viruses or bacteria. Therefore, a cold or flu cannot cause an allergy.
Sometimes, allergies can lead to a sinus infection, which may develop into a fever. Sinus infections are the result of excess mucus and debris getting trapped in the air-filled sinus passages. However, the infection develops due to the bacteria or viruses present rather than the allergens.
Knowing what a person is allergic to can help in treating the allergies. A person can be allergic to several allergens at once. Some of the key steps to reducing allergy symptoms include:
A person with severe allergies may benefit from immunotherapy. This approach involves injecting increasing amounts of allergens in the body to de-sensitize the bodys immune response. A doctor must prescribe these injections.
Could It Be Covid
Before we get into the differences between colds and allergies, lets address the most pressing concern of the moment COVID-19. The main symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 are cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is not common in a cold nor a bout of allergies.
COVID-19 may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell. None of these are typical signs of allergies and colds.
If you do have these COVID-19 symptoms, call us dont come into the office just yet and let us instruct you on the best course of care.
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Cleaning Your Nasal Passages
Regularly cleaning your nasal passages with a salt water solution known as nasal douching or irrigation can also help by keeping your nose free of irritants.
You can do this either by using a homemade solution or a solution made with sachets of ingredients bought from a pharmacy.
Small syringes or pots that often look like small horns or teapots are also available to help flush the solution around the inside of your nose.
To make the solution at home, mix half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a pint of boiled water that’s been left to cool to around body temperature do not attempt to rinse your nose while the water is still hot.
To rinse your nose:
- stand over a sink, cup the palm of one hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it
- sniff the water into one nostril at a time
- repeat this until your nose feels comfortable you may not need to use all of the solution
While you do this, some solution may pass into your throat through the back of your nose. The solution is harmless if swallowed, but try to spit out as much of it as possible.
Nasal irrigation can be carried out as often as necessary, but a fresh solution should be made each time.
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If youre going somewhere and you know youll be exposed to an allergen, Chen advises taking an antihistamine an hour beforehand. And if youre not feeling well and you think it may be allergies, talk to a doctor, who can help you navigate the best course of treatment. We know that allergies have a significant impact on peoples quality of life, she says. I commonly hear from patients that they didnt realize how much better they could have been feeling all along.
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How Are Allergies Diagnosed
A persons response to allergy medications is one way to tell you thats likely the problem. If you go to the doctor, your provider will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. Boling says she looks inside a patients nose and can often tell they have allergies because the turbinates structures in the nose that screen out particles and clean out and humidify the air that travels from the nostrils to the lungs have a distinct, light pink and squishy appearance. In the case of a cold, she says the nasal turbinates are usually red and swollen.
If you suspect you have environmental allergies, like an allergy to pollen or ragweed, you can see an allergist who can diagnose you with a skin or blood test.
Treatments For Allergic Rhinitis From A Gp
You may be referred to a specialist for further tests and treatment if it’s not clear what’s causing your symptoms or they’re severe.
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Allergies Usually Do Not Cause Wet Coughs
While coughing is often a symptom of both allergies and colds, the type of cough for each is different. A cold cough is wet and hacking, and typically produces mucus or phlegm that gets progressively thicker, often taking on a green or yellow tinge.
Allergies can cause a cough that feels like you have a tickle in your throat. Thats because allergens often irritate the lining of your nose, which triggers your nasal passages to create a watery mucus. This can drip out of your nose and down the back of your throat, creating that tickling sensation. This is referred to as post-nasal drip.
Sorting Out Your Cold And Allergy Symptoms
The reason people have such a hard time telling the difference between colds and allergies is the number of overlapping symptoms. Colds come and go, but if your cold symptoms are actually allergies, you can take steps to overcome them. With a little information, learn to decipher the signs and get the right treatment.
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How To Tell The Difference
Asking certain questions can help someone determine whether symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold:
- How quickly did symptoms appear? Symptoms tend to come on gradually over a day or two when a cold is the cause. When symptoms come on suddenly out of nowhere, they are more likely to be caused by an allergy.
- How long have symptoms been present? Symptoms of a cold tend to taper off after a week or two. Allergy symptoms may last while exposure to the triggering allergen is still in the air.
- Do symptoms occur at predictable times? If symptoms tend to occur at the same time every year, they can be due to seasonal allergies.
- Do symptoms include itchy or watery eyes or eczema? Certain symptoms tend to occur more frequently with allergies as opposed to colds.
Allergies Follow A Pattern And Symptoms Tend To Stick Around Longer
If you have allergies, your symptoms will flare up at certain times throughout the year when the allergens youre sensitive to are present. For example, if you have a tree pollen allergy, your symptoms will first appear in the early spring.
This also means that your symptoms can last for several weeks until that particular allergy season has ended. To put that into perspective, colds usually only last about a week.
Cold viruses are present all year, so you can catch one at any time. However, the winter cold season is when getting sick is more likely.
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