Unfortunately, when you're feeling relatively lousy, with sniffles, sneezing and a sore throat it can be very difficult to tell the difference in whether you have a cold, the flu or seasonal allergies. Because the symptoms for each are so similar, knowing the slight differences will help you choose the best possible treatment for whatever issue you are handling.
The National Institute of Health's Dr. Teresa Hauguel, whom is an expert on infectious diseases that affect breathing, has said, "If you know what you have, you wont take medications that you don’t need, that aren’t effective, or that might even make your symptoms worse". The common cold, flu and allergies all affect your respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe. However, each condition has key symptoms that can set them apart, this way you can make sure you are treating it correctly.
The common cold and the flu are both caused by different viruses. However, symptoms associated with the flu are much more severe. Both the flu and common cold can cause runny, stuffy nose; congestion; cough; and a sore throat. In addition, the flu can cause a high fever that typically lasts for 3-4 days, head aches, muscle fatigued, and general aches and pains.
Allergies are different from getting the cold or flu because it is not caused by a virus. Instead reactions are caused by allergens, which trigger the body's immune system when you are allergic to something. If you have allergies and breathe in things like pollen or animal dander, the immune cells in your nose and airways can overreact to those substances, although they are relatively harmless. The respiratory tissue may swell, and your nose can become stuffed up or runny. In addition, allergies can cause itchy and watery eyes.
Allergy symptoms usually last as long as your exposed to the allergen, which may be about 6 weeks during pollen seasons in the spring, summer or fall. The symptoms of the common cold and flu typically do not last longer then 2 weeks.
When it comes to recovery for the flu or common cold, most people recover on their own without medical care. The key to easing the symptoms of the flu or common cold is to get plenty of rest, as well as staying hydrated. Common pain relievers associated with the flu would be: aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. These medications relieve aches and reduce fevers. Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or decongestants.
Lastly, it is important to be aware of "drug overlap" when taking medicines that list two or more active ingredients. If you are taking different drugs that contain the same main ingredient; ibuprofen for example. One medication for stuffy nose and one medication for a sore throat, both with ibuprofen, could certainly be too much ibuprofen for your body to handle.