Cold, flu or allergy? Similar symptoms sometime blur lines between ailments

by Symptom Advice on January 28, 2012

PANAMA CITY — Sniffles, wheezing and coughing are all part of the cold and flu season.

But, is there really a difference between a cold and flu and an allergy?

Bay County Health Department Director of Nursing Kerry Hunt said when it comes to the flu and cold season, “It’s all about the virus.”

Allergies usually cause runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, watery and itchy eyes, but there is no fever, Hunt said. Allergies are usually caused by objects, like flowers, dust or pet hair.

Flu or colds may cause runny nose, aches and pains, sore and scratchy throat along with sneezing and coughing, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

“Colds and flus are caused by viruses,” Hunt said. “It is not caused by weather.”

So, Hunt related, just because you go outside without your jacket doesn’t mean you’ll catch cold.

“not true,” Hunt said.

Hunt said the cold and flu season usually comes around during January and February.

“before H1N1 they were most common during the cold periods of the year,” she continued. “H1N1 was a particular strain of the flu that was a novel strain, which means it was never identified before. we had more cases of the H1N1 in the spring and summer.”

The World Health Organization declared the new strain of swine-origin H1N1, also known as the “swine flu,” as a pandemic back in 2009. The “novel virus” spread worldwide and had caused about 17,000 deaths by the start of 2010.

The H1N1 stain is covered in this year’s vaccine edition.

“You really need to get the flu vaccine every year,” Hunt said. “It’s not too late, but I do suggest people come on in and get the flu shot.”

It does take time to develop an immunity to the virus, Hunt said.

Make it stop

To stop spreading the flu or cold, Hunt recommends a couple of things.

“first, don’t go to work,” she said.

Sneezing into the sleeve of a garment rather than your hands helps. It may be best to sneeze into a paper tissue. Avoid touching your face. The flu is transmitted through touch.

According to the Health Department, the seasonal flu replicates better in cold weather, which makes it easier to spread. of course, flu seasons are unpredictable and can start early or run late.

To prevent getting a flu, Hunt said to get a flu shot every year, frequently wash your hands, use a disinfectant and be careful when sneezing and coughing around others.

“we still have flu shots available,” Hunt said.

The cost for the regular flu vaccine at the Health Department is $29. A high dose flu vaccine specifically for individuals 65 years and older is available at a cost of $42.

According to the AAFA, if you have the flu you should get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and eat healthy foods. Over-the-counter medications, like a decongestant or a nasal sprays, can help relieve your symptoms, but they do not cure your cold; only time can do that.

The Florida Department of Health urges residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves and their families during flu season. Roughly 36,000 individuals in the U.S. die annually from influenza and related complications. In 2010, more than 2,000 people in Florida died from influenza and pneumonia — 26 of whom were from Bay County.

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