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The Difference Between the Cold, Flu, and Seasonal Allergies


It can be difficult to tell the common cold from the flu or allergies. For you, the sufferer, the destination is often the same: the living room sofa. Sore throats, aches, and a nose that’s suddenly a long-distance runner – the symptoms of all can overlap. So how do you know what you have? And, importantly, how long will you have it?

The common cold

A cold is caused by a virus. It’s transmitted through air droplets released when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It’s very contagious – you can get it if a sick person coughs on you, sneezes on you, or if you touch a contaminated surface (such as a bathroom faucet). Do you have children? That’ll do it, too!

Colds are very common – we have them more than any other illness. Though they are most likely to occur in winter and fall, they can happen any time of year. They tend to last up to two weeks and have an onset that’s gradual – you may have a scratchy throat at first and build from there. Symptoms include a runny nose, a sore throat, and cough. Over the counter medicines can help control these, but colds must run their course. Rest and fluids help, as well.

The flu

The flu is like the cold’s more dangerous uncle – the one that’s been in prison for stealing cars. You get the flu the same way you catch a cold (exposure to a virus), but the symptoms are different. They’re much more abrupt and intense. They also include high fevers, headaches, body aches, cough, chest discomfort, and fatigue.

The flu is a virus, which means antibiotics won’t fight it. Instead, like the common cold, the flu requires time before you’re back to normal. Typically, symptoms last for a week or two. Rest, fluids, over the counter medication, and even anti-virals may help.

The flu can be deadly in anyone, but people who are very young, very old, or who already have a compromised immune system are at higher risk of serious complications. Getting a flu shot can prevent the likelihood of getting the virus, but it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.


Unlike colds and flus, allergies are not caused by contagions – they are not virus-based and you cannot “give” your allergy to someone else (nope, not even your mother-in-law). Allergies are caused by allergens (such as grass or pollen). When those allergens are in the air, the symptoms of allergies appear, which include watery eyes and a stuffy, runny nose. Wheezing is prevalent, as well, particularly in people who are asthmatics. The symptoms last as long as the exposure to the allergen. Some people can control for this – if you’re allergic to cats, for instance, you stay away from pet stores – while others can’t. Antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids help control the symptoms and allergy shots may prevent them altogether.

The common cold, the flu, and allergies are not the same, but they affect your nose in a similar fashion – they stuff it up and make it run. Nasal rinsing works for all maladies by clearing out your nasal passages, restoring the natural environment, and warding off allergens and viruses.

ResQRinse is a new nasal rinsing system that uses choanal occlusion, a process that eliminates the negative side effects of other devices. ResQRinse helps manage nasal symptoms by delivering saline rinse directly through the nasal cavity. To learn more about the wonders it can do for your nose, please check out these informative videos.