Just recently, a patient called the our office complaining of a scratchy throat that had progressively worsened throughout the day. Added to that, they had the beginnings of a dry cough, a runny nose and felt very fatigued. “Normally I would have just chalked it up to getting a cold,” they began, “But these days you get scared.”
Could this be Covid? Didn’t getting vaccinated prevent them from becoming infected? Would they need to go back into isolation? Start wearing a mask again? Stop seeing their friends?
These days after a traumatic year of pandemic distress, it’s only natural to feel some PTSD with any respiratory symptom. But remember: if you’ve been vaccinated, you have less than a 5% chance of getting coronavirus and much milder symptoms if you do. And be aware: before there was Covid, there were allergies and hundreds of other much milder viruses including “the Flu” circulating in the community at this time of year.
The common symptoms of a cold, flu and allergies are a stuffy or a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or even fatigue. Two differing symptoms are a fever or aches/pain, these would not be caused by allergies, but could be due to a cold or the flu. Symptoms of the flu are often more severe than a cold.
While the symptoms are similar, the origin of the conditions are different. A cold and the flu are both caused by different viruses, whereas allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a trigger. Common inhalant allergy triggers are pollen, dust, mold, pet dander.
Another key difference is when and how often patients have these conditions. A cold can be caught 3 or 4 times a year, whereas patients are likely only to get the flu once. Allergies are a whole different story, allergies recur seasonally and repeatedly.
Since external triggers cause allergies, what you are allergic to determines when you begin to feel these symptoms. Those who are allergic to grass and trees are more likely to suffer in the spring, whereas ragweed pollen affects allergy sufferers in the fall. Those who have indoor triggers, like dust, mold, or pet dander, may experience symptoms year round when they are in contact with the allergy trigger.
No one likes getting sick, for common cold prevention patients should practice good handwashing habits, avoid people who have a cold and avoid spreading germs. The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot yearly. Allergy symptoms can be prevented by controlling your environment and avoiding triggers when possible.
If you have a cold, we recommend rest, drink lots of fluids, and treat your symptoms until they subside. If you have the flu, you can receive an antiviral drug 24-48 hours after you’ve begun experiencing symptoms. Allergies are treated with avoidance methods, medication to control the symptoms, and allergy shots to treat the cause.
Understanding the differences between these conditions can help you get the treatment you need quickly. If your symptoms return at the same time every year, you may have allergies. We recommend getting allergy tested to identify what allergies you may have.
Bottom line, it never hurts to field your concerns with a professional. The Ear Nose and Throat providers at Advanced Specialty Care are happy to counsel you about your symptoms and if they think it’s warranted, will refer you to one of our board-certified Allergists today. We can also help you get tested for COVID if there is any suspicion you have it. If you’re worried or experiencing covid, cold, flu or allergy symptoms, call our office to schedule a same-day appointment in one of our four offices in Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk or Ridgefield.
– ENT Specialist, Donna Haupt, PA-C
Advanced Specialty Care is a multi-specialty private practice caring for patients in Fairfield and Litchfield Counties for over 30 years. We are committed to the well-being of our patients. We have expertise in Ear, Nose and Throat Disease, Head and Neck Surgery, Allergy & Asthma Care, Audiology, Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery, and Dermatology and Skin Care. At each of our five Connecticut facilities, we offer only the latest state-of-the-art technologies and techniques – all in a welcoming and caring environment.