Cold, Flu, or Allergies

There’s a feeling of excitement as temperatures drop and the holidays approach. Unfortunately, the winter season can also usher in illness. For some, ‘tis the season to be sick.


(Pixabay / Wokandapix)

If you feel yourself slipping under the weather, you may wonder what exactly you are battling and how best to treat it. Cold and flu are the most common ailments this time of year. Here are a few tips for telling the difference between the two:


A good rule of thumb for categorizing cold symptoms is that they generally occur from the neck up. Colds rarely involve a fever or body aches. Instead, they are characterized by a runny nose, stuffed-up nose, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, and watery eyes.

The bad news about colds is that there is no treatment because they are the result of a virus. Thus, medication such as antihistamines and decongestants can help relieve your discomfort, but the virus itself must simply run its course. Getting plenty of sleep may help reduce the duration of a cold. Adequate hydration and nutrition are also useful. To prevent a cold, make sure to wash your hands frequently and stay rested.


Flu manifests with many of the same symptoms as colds, such as nasal congestion and coughing. As opposed to colds, though, flu frequently causes fevers, chills, and achy muscles. Most cases of the flu can be managed by resting and hydrating, but if the following symptoms occur, you may need to consult a doctor:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • A high fever (not just a low-grade)
  • Throwing up
  • Dehydration

While flu often goes away on its own in several days, flu can sometimes hang on and morph into bronchial infections and pneumonia. As with a cold, flu is caused by a virus, so there is no quick treatment. If symptoms become troubling, you can address them with medications such as antihistamines or decongestants (for runny or stuffed-up noses) and fever reducers and pain relievers for fever and aches.

To prevent flu, get your flu shot. Wash your hands frequently and clean the surfaces around you with anti-bacterial solutions.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.