(BlackDoctor.org) — It’s getting to be that time of the year again, where seasonal changes have us sniffling and sneezing a little more often – for various reasons. Relief is all any of us want from a stuffy nose, hacking cough or aching must, and whether it’s seasonal allergies, a cold, or the flu makes a big difference in what we need to do to feel better.
Understanding the source of your particular symptoms is the key to getting the relief you need.
Why You Need To Know
Obviously, knowing what you’re dealing with helps you to get the right treatment. But in addition, not knowing can make you susceptible to other illness complications. For example, if you are prone to colds for a good part of the year, it’s possible that you are actually suffering from allergies. With proper treatment your allergy symptoms could be minimized or entirely eliminated. However, left unattended, your allergies could develop into sinusitis or ear infections.
In addition, it is important to distinguish between colds and flu because untreated flu can sometimes lead to complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can even be life threatening.
What Are The Differences?
While the symptoms described in each of the following categories are quite common and can be used as general indications, individual cases may vary. If you are unsure of your situation or symptoms persist, call your doctor for treatment recommendations.
Symptoms usually strike quickly and can include runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, or watery and itchy eyes. You might experience itching in the ear, nose and throat. Nasal discharges are clear, thin and watery. Allergies occur during different seasons depending on what you are allergic to and can last weeks or months.
Talk to your doctor about tests to determine the cause of your allergies and the proper treatment. Once you know the specific “allergens” (generally harmless substances that cause an allergic reaction), avoidance is the best preventative. When that’s not possible, short or long term relief can be provided with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs including antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroid nasal sprays. For chronic conditions, your doctor might recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots).
You can usually feel cold symptoms developing over a few days. Symptoms might be the same as those for allergies, but without itching in the ear, nose and throat. You could have a sore throat, cough, or mild fever. Nasal discharges are thin and clear at the outset but change to thick, yellow or green. Colds generally occur during the fall and winter and should clear up in 7 to 10 days.
You can achieve temporary relief of symptoms with over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. If symptoms don’t clear up within 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. You can minimize the risk of catching a cold by washing your hands after contact with cold sufferers and any objects they may have touched. Try to avoid cold sufferers sneezing or coughing in your direction and don’t touch your nose or eyes with your fingers.
The onset of flu can be sudden and symptoms often include exhaustion, headache and severe aches and pains. Occasionally a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat are added to the mixture of symptoms. A cough is common and can become severe. High temperatures (102-104F) can last 3 – 4 days while a general weakness or fatigue can continue for 2 – 3 weeks.
See your doctor for antiviral medications to relieve flu symptoms. To help prevent the flu, talk to your doctor about vaccination with annual flu shots.