Cold, flu or just allergies?

Symptoms of allergy are most commonly sneezing, runny nose, and nasal itching. Other symptoms often present are cough, fatigue. There may be itching or watering of the eyes. Allergies may be “seasonal”, meaning that they happen at certain times of the year due to environmental factors such as grasses, weeds, or pollen. Fever is not generally present.

The cold is the most frequent viral illness in the United States, we get these often. The most common initial symptoms are runny nose and scratchy throat. Nasal discharge is usually clear. Other common symptoms are cough and sore throat. Fever, if present, is usually what we call “low grade” (over 98.6 but under 100.4 degrees F).

Influenza, or “flu” can be more serious. It characteristically starts with a sudden onset of fever, muscle aches, and headache, as well as cough, sore throat, and runny nose. The fever from flu usually ranges from 100 to 104 degrees F but can get even higher. Sometimes flu symptoms are mild and resemble a cold, and sometimes it can be much more serious. Vomiting and diarrhea are not usually caused by influenza. “Stomach flu”, or what doctors call gastroenteritis, is not caused by the influenza virus and is not prevented by the flu shot.

So as you can see, there is overlap the symptoms of allergies, colds, and flu. Some of the main differences are the degree of fever and how fast the illness comes on. If you are not feeling well and are unsure, I recommend you make an appointment with your healthcare provider or go to the walk-in clinic. And it is not too late to get your flu shot if you haven’t had one yet.

About the author.

Amy Kvidera, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician with HFM Family Medicine. To schedule an appointment with her, call (920) 320-2436.