If you’re experiencing upper respiratory symptoms like congestion and a runny nose, you may be wondering whether you’re suffering from the flu or just allergies. Identifying which you have is key to seeking proper treatment. Below we review the causes and symptoms of the flu and allergies as well as how to tell which you have.
Causes of the Flu
There are four main types of viruses that cause the flu:
- Influenza A and B viruses. These are the most common cause of seasonal flu outbreaks in humans. There are many subtypes of influenza A and B, and each season the most common variety can change.
- Influenza C viruses. These cause milder illnesses and are rarely the cause of epidemics.
- Influenza D viruses. These usually affect livestock rather than humans.
You can catch the flu when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes near you, or if you both touch a shared surface like a fence or court at Atlanta Memorial Park then you touch your mouth or nose.
Causes of Allergies
Allergies are the result of an immune response to a normally-harmless substance known as an allergen. Common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, certain foods and insect stings.
During this reaction, the immune system releases antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which causes your cells to release histamine. Histamine increases mucus production and triggers inflammation, causing your allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of the Flu
Flu symptoms vary based on what strain you’re infected with, but usually include:
- Body aches
- Shortness of breath
More rarely, the flu can also cause congestion, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Symptoms of Allergies
While symptoms of allergies can be full-body, they’re usually more confined to the upper respiratory system. Common symptoms include:
- Itchy, red, watery or puffy eyes
- Runny nose
- Itchy or scratchy throat
- Hives or rash
Severe allergies can result in shortness of breath, dizziness and increased heart rate. These are signs of anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical attention.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Flu & Allergies
The main difference between the symptoms of the flu and allergies is that the flu tends to affect the whole body, while allergies usually only affect the upper respiratory system. In addition, if you have the flu, you’ll experience symptoms all day long for a week or two, but with allergies, you may experience symptoms only at certain times of day, in certain environments or during certain seasons.
For more information about the difference between the flu and allergies or to schedule an appointment, call ENT of Georgia today.