You're sniffling, achy and tired, but why? While influenza, also known as the flu, is one potentialcause of these symptoms, you can also experience these symptoms from colds, allergies or chestinfections. Getting a handle on the cause of your symptoms can help get you on the path to astrong and full recovery. If your symptoms are severe or long-lasting, consult your doctor.
Colds really are common, occurring over a billion times in the United States each year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and causing more work and school absences than any other illness. While symptoms of a cold are similar to the flu, they’re usually less severe. Colds are more likely to cause a stuffy or runny nose, whereas a flu bug may bring body aches, fatigue and chills. Severe flu infections sometimes lead to complications and hospital stays, which generally don't happen with colds.
Your sniffling and sneezing may also be caused by allergies. Unlike the cold or flu, allergies are not caused by a virus, but by immune system reactions. Your symptoms, which may also include watery eyes, swelling, nausea, a rash, breathing problems and diarrhea, flare up and linger while you’re exposed to the allergen. Common allergens include animal hair, dust, certain foods and mold. Flu symptoms, on the other hand, typically last a week or two and diminish on their own.
Chest infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis, also cause flu-like symptoms. While it often follows a cold or flu, it isn't the same thing. Common symptoms include a high fever, coughing up phlegm, a fast heartbeat, shallow breathing and feeling confused. Bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, whereas bacteria typically causes pneumonia, which is why pneumonia may require antibiotics. Like the cold and flu, chest infections are contagious, easily spread from person-to-person.
No matter what is causing your symptoms, you can take steps to feel more comfortable and potentially even recover faster.
- Understand and manage allergies. If you suspect you have an allergy, consult your doctor who may recommend or prescribe medications or allergy shots, as well as environmental changes such as avoiding the allergen.
- Rest during infections. Whether you have a cold, flu or chest infection, resting well and often can help ensure that your energy goes to healing. Staying home from work and other obligations also prevents passing the bug on to others.
- Consider OTC medications. With the exception of pneumonia, in which coughing is an important part of the healing process, upper-respiratory infections can be helped with over-the-counter decongestants and expectorants. Maximum strength Mucinex® Fast-Max® Cold, Flu & Sore Throat Liquid Gels contains both of these.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking fluids helps loosen mucus in your throat and lungs when you have an infection.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Common Cold
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cold Versus Flu
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Allergy Symptoms
- Cleveland Clinic: Influenza (Flu)
- National Health Service: Chest Infection
- Mucinex: Maximum Strength Mucinex® Fast-Max® Cold, Flu & Sore Throat Liquid Gels