Cold, the flu and allergies can wreak havoc on your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to other infections. If you experience these conditions frequently, it may be time to get tested for a possible underlying cause. Despite their superficial similarities, there are a few key differences between cold viruses (also known as rhinoviruses), influenza viruses and allergies. Knowing the difference can help you manage symptoms and take steps toward prevention. Keep reading to learn more about these conditions and how they relate to one another.
What is a cold?
A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose, throat, and bronchial tubes. The primary culprit is a common type of rhinovirus, which is responsible for almost every sniffle and sore throat in the winter. Symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue and body aches. Cold symptoms can last between 1 and 7 days, but they may feel much longer because of their impact on everyday activities. Symptoms can be minimized with the right treatment and by taking steps to prevent the spread of illness. Cold treatment options include over-the-counter medications and over-the-counter breathing exercises.
Cold viruses are highly contagious and can be spread to others through coughing and sneezing. They’re also thought to be “shedding” in the form of respiratory secretions, meaning people coughing or sneezing near you could potentially also catch the infection. Cold viruses are common during the winter and are often followed by the flu, which can be a much more serious condition. Because colds can last a week or more, however, you may be able to fend them off with the right treatment. Cold viruses are the main cause of the common cold. They are also responsible for a group of other infections, including bronchitis, and possibly even some types of cancer.
Allergies are unusual conditions in which your immune system reacts to harmless substances as if they are harmful. This can cause serious health issues, such as anaphylaxis, food allergies or skin reactions. Allergies occur when your immune system wrongly identifies one or more substances as harmful. Common allergens include dust mites, certain types of food and even certain types of bacteria. When a person with allergies is exposed to one of these substances, the immune system reacts and produces antibodies to “mark” the allergen. This leads to the release of chemicals called histamines, which cause allergic symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing.
Flu vaccination is the only way to protect yourself against the flu. Although you can’t get the flu from vaccination, you can still get the flu from a flu case. The flu vaccine does not guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but it can prevent you from getting very sick if you do get the flu. There are two types of flu vaccines: an inactivated (killed) flu vaccine and a live attenuated flu vaccine, also known as a flu vaccine that contains the weakened influenza virus. The inactivated flu vaccine protects against the three main types of flu: nasal, transmission; respiratory, transmission; and oseltamivir-resistant, transmission.
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Which comes first, flu or cold?
The short answer is both. You can get the flu when your immune system is “broken” from having a common cold, and the flu can lead to a case of the common cold. As far as which condition comes first, there are different theories. It’s possible that having a cold can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to catch the flu virus. Alternatively, the flu itself may cause a person to become sick with a cold. There’s also evidence suggesting that the flu vaccine works by helping to prevent people from getting both the flu and a cold. How can that be? Vaccines don’t target specific viruses. They work by helping your body develop antibodies that recognize and attack bits of all viruses. Since almost all the viruses the vaccine targets are also the types that cause colds, this makes sense.
How do you know if you have allergies?
If you have hives and/or difficulty breathing after being exposed to specific allergens, you may have an allergy. Hives, an itchy skin rash, are a sign of an allergic reaction. Other symptoms of a food allergy include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain after eating a certain food. If you experience these or other symptoms after being exposed to a potential allergen, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting tested for an allergy.
Symptoms of a cold or flu and allergy
– Headache – Exhaustion and general feeling unwell – Sore throat – Dry cough – Postnasal drip – a yellow or green discharge that runs down the back of the throat – Fever – Sneezing – Runny or blocked nose – Muscle aches – Dry cough – Fatigue Cold or flu symptoms vary according to the person experiencing them. Symptoms of a cold may include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue and body aches. Symptoms of the flu include fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and cough. Cold or flu symptoms may last one to seven days, but they may feel much longer because of their impact on daily activities. Symptoms can be minimized with the right treatment and by taking steps to prevent the spread of illness. Cold treatment options include over-the-counter medications, breathing exercises and over-the-counter medications.
Diagnosis of a cold or flu and allergy
There’s no specific test to determine whether you have a cold or flu. A doctor will likely order a test to check your blood for signs of an infection, such as a fever or increased white blood cell count. If your doctor suspects an allergy, the diagnosis could be made by performing a blood test to check for certain antibodies associated with allergies. It’s important to remember that while allergies do sometimes cause cold symptoms, they do not always do so. If you have cold symptoms, your doctor may place you on an antibiotic to prevent a bacterial infection. If you have flu symptoms, you may be treated with antiviral medication.
Treatment of a cold or flu and allergy
Cold and flu symptoms can be managed with the right treatment, such as over-the-counter medications, breathing exercises and over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medications. These include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, decongestants and antihistamines. To help reduce nasal congestion and thin nasal secretions, try humidifying nasal sprays or saline nasal drops. Breathing exercises. These can help reduce the amount of mucus produced by the body and help clear it from your airways. Mucus can be thick or sticky and cause breathing difficulties. Over-the-counter medications. These include: – Decongestants – for drainage, pressure and itching – Anti-inflammatory drugs – for pain and inflammation – Antihistamines – to prevent histamine release (which causes allergy symptoms) – Throat lozenges – to ease dry cough – Nasal sprays – to help with congestion and block drainage – Saline nasal drops – to help cleanse and moisturize the nose
Cold viruses are the main cause of the common cold. They are also responsible for a group of other infections, including bronchitis, and possibly even some types of cancer. Flu vaccines protect against the three main types of flu. Allergies are unusual conditions in which your immune system reacts to harmless substances as if they are harmful. If you have a cold or flu symptoms, your doctor may place you on an antibiotic to prevent a bacterial infection. If you have allergy symptoms, your doctor may diagnose you with an allergy and recommend you take antihistamine medication.