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3 Ways to Tell if You Have a Cold, Flu or Allergies

By Amber Page

Your nose is stuffed up. You can't breathe. Or talk without coughing. You are, in short, miserable. And you're wondering how much more miserable you're about to get.

Are you about to be put out of commission for a week or more with a nasty cold -- or worse, the flu? Or can you take some allergy meds and go back to your normal life?

While it can be hard to tell when you're in the thick of it, there are some key differences between these three misery makers -- and once you know what you're dealing with, you can get a better idea of how to treat it.

Eyes or Ears Itch? It's Probably Allergies

Allergies cause many of the same symptoms colds do, including sneezing, congestion, and runny noses. But if you've got a nagging itch deep in your ears or in your eyes, you're probably dealing with allergies.

To deal with it, try taking an over-the-counter decongestant or a nasal steroid spray. 

Pro tip: nasal steroid sprays (such as Flonase, for example) work better the longer you take it, so start treatment as soon as symptoms set in. Or, if you know you tend to experience allergy attacks during certain times of the year, start using a nasal steroid spray a few days beforehand.

Wet Cough? It's Probably a Cold or the Flu

Although allergies can cause you to cough, it tends to be dry and shallow. If, on the other hand, you're experiencing deep coughs accompanied by mucus or post-nasal drip, you're more likely to be dealing with a virus. 

To calm a cough, you could take a cough suppressant or expectorant. If you prefer more natural relief methods, try taking a spoonful of honey, sipping a hot drink, or gargling salt water.

If your cough persists for more than a few days or worsens, you should probably make an appointment with a doctor.

Run Over by a Truck? It's Probably the Flu

Colds and the flu share a lot of symptoms, including coughing, fever and fatigue. However, symptoms are generally much worse when you have the flu. Fatigue tends to be extreme, fevers tend to be high, and your other symptoms tend to last longer.

When you have the flu, you're also much more likely to have chills and body aches.

If you think you have the flu, it's a good idea to see a doctor. Depending on your situation, they might prescribe an antiviral medication or suggest other treatments to minimize the potential for complications.

No matter which of these three ailments you have, make sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in the Tempe Marketplace in El Cajon, Calif.

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