SurvivalMedicineBlog

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Cold? Flu? Allergies? Pt. 1 Which or what is it??

Its that time of the year, the weather is getting colder and its time for colds, coughs, allergies and the flu to make its appearance. What is it? What are the signs and symptoms? What do you have? How can you improve your chances of NOT catching something? And what do you do IF you or a loved one starts to feel something isn’t right?

I have put this information together for ease of reading and understanding and all information is taken directly from WebMd.

In this first part of Colds, Flu, Coughs, Allergies we will discuss what the symptoms/signs are of some the most common upper respiratory ailments are. Part 2 will have prevention tips and suggestions and Part 3 will address what to do ‘just in case’ you get a cold or the flu and finally, we will discuss, in Part 4 what complications may arise from the common cold or flu. No matter if its an average day when you get sick or the end of the world as you know it, we got you covered to help yourself, just in case.

Colds

Colds usually begin abruptly with a sore throat followed by symptoms such as clear, watery nasal drainage; sneezing; fatigue; and sometimes a low-grade fever (below 101 degrees F). Postnasal drip causes the sore throat and cough that accompany colds.

For the first few days of a cold, your nose drips with watery nasal secretions. Later, these secretions may become thicker and darker. (Dark mucus with a cold virus does not necessarily mean that you have developed a bacterial infection, so don’t beg your doctor for an antibiotic.)

A mild cough is a common cold symptom. The cough won’t get much worse, but this common cold symptom is likely to last into the second week of your cold. If you suffer with asthma or other lung problem, a cold may make it worse. If you are coughing up dark mucus — or if you are feeling a lot of distress in the lower parts of your lungs — you may have a bacterial infection. It’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor to find out if you need to be seen.

Usually, there is no fever with common cold symptoms. In fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu and not a cold.

Common cold symptoms usually start between one and three days after you are infected by a cold virus. Typically, they last for about three to seven days. At that point, the worst is over, but you may feel congested for a week or more. During the first three days that you have common cold symptoms, you are contagious. This means you can pass the cold virus to those you come in contact with.

If cold symptoms do not seem to be improving after a week, you may have a bacterial infection, which means you may need antibiotics.

Sometimes you may mistake cold symptoms for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or a sinus infection. If your cold symptoms begin quickly and are improving after a week, then it is usually a cold, not allergy. If your cold symptoms do not seem to be getting better after a week, check with your doctor to see if you have developed an allergy or sinusitis.

Flu

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough. Swine flu in particular is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

Most flu symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more.

How do you know if you have flu or cold symptoms? Take your temperature, say many experts. Flu symptoms often mimic cold symptoms with nasal congestion, cough, aches, and malaise. But a common cold rarely has symptoms of fever above 101 degrees F. With flu symptoms, you will probably have a fever initially with the flu virus and you will feel miserable. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu. This table can help determine if you have cold or flu symptoms.

Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Sometimes, usually mild Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Occasionally Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe

Other great questions to ask yourself or your child to figure out what ‘it’ is:

Flu vs. Colds: A Guide to Symptoms
Questions Flu Cold
Was the onset of illness … sudden? slow?
Do you or your child have a … high fever? no (or mild) fever?
Is you or your child’s exhaustion level … severe? mild?
Is you or your child’s head … achy? headache-free?
Is you or your child’s appetite … decreased? normal?
Are you or your child’s muscles … achy? fine?
Do you or your child have … chills? no chills?

Colds and flues are caused by hundreds of different viruses. When one of these viruses gets into your body, your immune system attacks. Some of the effects of this immune response are the classic symptoms of a cold, such as congestion and coughing. With the flu, you will often have the classic symptom of body aches and fever.

The germs that cause colds and flues are contagious. You can pick them up when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. After a couple of weeks, at the most (with the flu its just days), your immune system fights off the virus and you stop having symptoms.

Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system. For some reason, your body mistakes harmless substances — such as mold or pollen — for germs and attacks them. Your body releases chemicals such as histamine, just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause swelling in your nasal passages, a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Allergies are not contagious, although some people may inherit a tendency to develop them.

Differences Between Colds and Allergies

Characteristic

Cold

Allergy

Duration

three-14 days

Days to months — as long as you are exposed to the allergen

Time of Year

Most often in the winter, but possible at any time

Any time of the year — although the appearance of some allergens are seasonal

Onset of symptoms

Symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus.

Symptoms can begin immediately after exposure to the allergen

Symptom

Cold

Allergy

Cough

Often

Sometimes

Aches

Sometimes

Never

Fatigue

Sometimes

Sometimes

Fever

Rarely

Never

Itchy, watery eyes

Rarely

Often

Sore throat

Often

Sometimes

Runny or stuffy nose

Often; usually yellow mucus

Often; usually clear mucus

Although there are some differences, cold and allergy symptoms overlap quite a bit. The most important difference is that colds don’t last longer than 14 days. If you still have symptoms after two weeks, these may be allergy symptoms.

In the next part of this series, Cold? Flu? Allergies? we will discuss common ways to prevent ‘catching’ a cold, flu or having allergy symptoms.

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December 1, 2011 - Posted by | Guidelines, Medical Conditions | , , , , , ,

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