Is It a Cold, the Flu or Winter Allergies? Know Your Symptoms

Winter Allergies

Winter is almost here–and that means holiday shopping, visiting with family and hosting huge dinners in your warm, festive home. It also means the arrival of cold and flu season and pesky winter allergies. 

Let’s clear up some misconceptions about cold and flu season…and explore the differences between a common cold, the flu and those annoying winter allergies.

Misconceptions About Cold and Flu Season

Scientifically speaking, you aren’t more likely to catch a common cold when it’s winter.

Cold germs don’t multiply more rapidly in low temperatures, and your body isn’t a more receptive host to the germs when it’s cold.

However, it is true that cold temperatures cause us to spend more time indoors–where we’re in closer contact with other people and their germs.

Colds are most commonly transmitted from person to person, via contaminated surfaces or airborne fluids. So if someone who has a cold coughs into their hand and then touches a doorknob, you can pick up those germs if you touch the same surface or breathe the contaminated air.

The germs aren’t more common during winter, but we are more likely to come in contact with them.

The influenza virus, on the other hand, does become more stable in cold temperatures. That stability allows it be transmitted more easily during the winter months.

Constant hand washing, adequate rest, nutrition, fluids and a flu shot can help you avoid falling victim to the flu this winter.

Let’s Talk About Winter Allergies

Totally separate from cold and flu season are the dreaded winter allergies.

Most of us associate allergies with the pollen-filled air of spring and summer. But winter can bring its fair share of allergens, too.

You might be wondering how.

Well, once again, wintertime brings cold weather…which forces people to spend more time indoors.

When you spend more time inside your house, you might notice that allergens like dust mites and mold are irritating you worse than ever.

That’s because your home’s heating system collects dust and debris over the warmer months when it isn’t being used. So when you turn your heat on for the first time in the winter, you’re circulating dust mites, mold and other irritants throughout your home via your duct system.

Additionally, if you have pets, you might notice an uptick in pet dander in your home during the winter. Again, it’s because your pets are spending more time indoors–and spreading those allergens around.

Cold, Flu and Winter Allergy Symptoms

A common cold, influenza and allergies each have different symptoms.

Let’s talk about them.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

  • Slow progression of symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild body aches
  • Thick or discolored mucus
  • Symptoms subside after 7-10 days

Symptoms of Influenza

  • Sudden progression of symptoms
  • High fever (over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Persistent, aching muscles
  • Chills and sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Symptoms persist for up to three weeks

Symptoms of Winter Allergies

  • Thin, clear mucus or secretions
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nasal passages
  • Symptoms persist for weeks or months

Perhaps the biggest difference between a common cold and winter allergies is how long the symptoms last.

A common cold will typically come and go within a week or so. Winter allergies, on the other hand, can persist for weeks or even months.

If you’re suffering from winter allergies, don’t let them hang around until spring. Visit the Allergy & Asthma Center for an evaluation, and get back to enjoying the season!

Contact us today at 408-684-7499 or schedule an appointment.

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