Allergies or the flu? 3 ways to help you tell the difference

Mar 16, 2015, 8:34 AM | Updated: Jul 29, 2015, 10:26 pm

As flu season winds down, allergy season gears up. This is the time of year when a stuffy or runny nose could easily be the flu, a cold or allergies.

How can you best treat your symptoms if you don’t know what is causing them?

Here are three possible signs to tell the difference.

When it’s the flu:

  1. Cold/flu symptoms usually come on fast. If you find yourself feeling fine in the morning but awful by the end of the day, it could indicate the flu is looming near.
  2. Body aches and fever. A virus typically causes general aches and pains. Having a temperature more than 100 degrees is often a cold/flu symptom.
  3. Thick nasal discharge is usually a cold symptom.

When it’s allergies:

  1. Itchy eyes and nose. Seasonal and environmental allergies often create itchy, watery eyes and clear nasal discharge.
  2. Allergies might make you feel bad, but usually aren’t associated with achy bones and joints.
  3. Symptoms last more than 14 days without treatment.


Treatment for colds and allergy symptoms may be similar: antihistamines and decongestants can improve symptoms for both. Always consult a health professional to assure the proper medication is being used for both children and adults. Hydration, rest and OTC pain relievers are beneficial for colds and flu.

With allergies, however, relieving symptoms also means reducing or avoiding exposure to allergens. New residents of Arizona may not realize certain trees, grass and weeds may be the cause of their discomfort.

Springtime in Arizona invites everyone to enjoy outside activities but allergy sufferers should pay close attention to pollen levels.

Ragweed is one of the most common allergy-causing plants in the United States. According to The Pollen Library, Maricopa County has eight different species of ragweed flowering in the spring. Arizona white oak and box elder trees are common allergens, along with Bermuda grass and perennial rye. The Pollen Map also provides advisories of daily and weekly pollen levels.

While we can’t control when plants are blooming, here are three things you can do to make your environment more comfortable:

  1. Buy a HEPA filter for your bedroom to remove airborne allergens and ensure better sleep.
  2. Use air conditioning when weather is warm to keep pollen out and reduce indoor humidity.
  3. Run exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen when taking a shower or cooking.

Visiting a doctor may be a good idea to help you learn what specific allergens are causing your immune system to overreact. A doctor may decide to prescribe nasal steroid sprays or even allergy shots, which may help your body develop a tolerance to problem-causing allergens.


NextCare Holdings, Inc. is one of the nation’s largest providers of urgent care and occupational medical services, with an emphasis on a comprehensive approach called Full Circle Care that ensures patients experience the highest level of care, from reception to recovery. NextCare Holdings operates 119 urgent care facilities in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. For more information, please visit or call 888-381-4858. For the latest news, follow NextCare on Twitter (@NextCare) and Facebook.


Allergies or the flu? 3 ways to help you tell the difference