Discerning Between Winter Illnesses

Winter brings snow, holiday gifts and crisp temperatures. Unfortunately, it also brings sickness as people stay cooped up inside and share germs easily. We’ve all had that dreadful sensation of waking up with a sore throat, runny or stuffed up nose or pounding head. Then come the familiar questions: What do I have? How soon will it pass? Do I need to see the doctor? What medications will make me feel better?

Winter Illnesses

(Pixabay / Free-Photos)

Here are a few guidelines for determining what you’re suffering with and how to get the best treatment.



  • Runny or congested nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Irritated eyes


  • Same symptoms as cold
  • May be accompanied by fever and chills
  • May be accompanied by body aches


Colds tend to last for about a week. Make sure to stay inside during the first few days of your illness, as that is when you are most contagious. Flu usually hangs around for three to seven days, but certain side effects (such as coughing) can linger for weeks. Flu victims are the most contagious one to four days after onset.


A cold is caused by a virus, so there’s no treatment. You can try medications such as nasal sprays or antihistamines to mitigate the symptoms, but they won’t change the virus itself. Stay home to avoid infecting others, get plenty of rest, wash your hands often, eat nutritious foods and wait it out.

Managing the flu is similar to managing a cold. Flu typically subsides in several days, and the best treatment is often just to stay home, drink plenty of liquids and get rest. You can take medications such as ibuprofen to help with fever and aches. While it’s not necessary to see a doctor for standard flu symptoms, you should be seen if you have trouble breathing, a high fever (usually 103° or higher), excessive vomiting or dehydration. Flu can spiral into pneumonia, which requires immediate medical attention.


These illnesses can also be confused with allergies. While people tend to think of allergies as occurring in spring or fall, they can also develop in winter due to increased exposure to indoor allergens such as dust or pet dander.

Allergy symptoms are similar to some cold and flu symptoms, including coughing and a stuffed-up or runny nose. But while cold and flu usually subside after seven days, allergies can last for weeks at a time. If you suspect that you have allergies, consider physician-directed treatment in the form of allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy drops.

The two forms of immunotherapy are highly effective for long-term allergy relief, but sublingual immunotherapy, which is administered as liquid drops under the tongue, is safer and more convenient. Visit a sublingual immunotherapy clinic to learn more.

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.