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Andrew S. Kim, MD
Ask An Allergist
Allergy & Asthma Center Of Fairfax
. http://www.allergyasthmadoctors.com/

Ask An Allergist

What are the differences between the flu, the common cold, and allergies?

Viruses cause the flu and common cold resulting in common symptomsassociated with a viral infection that typically last 1-2 weeks. These symptoms include headaches, and coughing, sneezing and sniffling. Symptoms from the flu are usually more severe than the common cold and may include significant body aches, headaches, fever, and extreme fatigue.

Allergy symptoms may be similar to the common cold and flu, but they last longer. Allergy symptoms usually last for weeks and months, and patients typically complain of an itchy nose, throat and eyes as well. Some people may have asthma symptoms, such as a cough, wheeze and chest tightness.

While the flu might causes a fever, allergy patients usually do not get a fever. Also, the cough associated with allergies is a dry cough with clear nasal drainage while an infectious cough is characterized by yellow or greenish nasal drainage.

What preventative measures should people take during cold and flu season?

The flu vaccine is the single most effective way to prevent the flu. This year, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the flu vaccine for all persons six months and older.

Another preventative measure is diligent and frequent washing of the hands. Cold and flu viruses may live for hours and days on common contact surfaces.

So, for example, someone sneezes into their hands and touches the doorknob or the keyboard. The next person to touch the same doorknob or keyboard can pick up the cold virus. That is why frequent hand washing with warm water and soap is a must. If this is not available, use hand-sanitizers.

Also, when sneezing, sneeze into a tissue and throw it away immediately, or if a tissue is not available, sneeze into the inside of your elbow.

Are there any myths about cold and flu season that are not true?

One of the common myths about the flu season is that some people refuse the flu vaccine thinking that they may get the flu from it. However, the flu shot is an inactivated (killed) virus and cannot give you the flu.

Another myth is that people with egg allergies cannot get the flu vaccine. While it is true that the flu vaccine contains small amounts of egg protein, it is still possible for someone with egg allergies to safely get the flu vaccine. Ask you doctor or an allergist about how you can safely get the flu vaccine if you have an egg allergy.

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