Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cold, Flu, and Allergy Season is Coming: Are You Prepared?

Written By: Levena Lindahl

          Many people suffer from seasonal allergies, typically during the spring and fall.  But do you know if you are actually suffering from allergies or if you have a cold or the flu?  Here are some ways to tell the difference, and some tips to get you through this season of sniffles.

          Allergies are caused when your body mistakes harmless substances -- such as dust or pollen -- for germs and attacks them. Your body releases chemicals such as histamine, which can cause swelling in your nasal passages, a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Allergies are not contagious, although some people may inherit a tendency to develop them. Allergies also come in three levels:  mild, moderate and severe.  Mild allergies typically have symptoms such as an itchy nose and watery eyes.  Moderate allergies involve sneezing fits, congestion and sore throats.  Severe allergies are when your nose is constantly running or congested, you have frequent sneezing fits, your eyes are red, itchy and puffy and your throat is incredibly sore.  This is where allergy medications like Zyrtec or Nasonex come in handy.  Make sure you talk to a doctor to figure out a proper allergy medication dosage if you have severe allergies.

          Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. When one of these viruses gets into your body, your immune system attacks it, resulting in the classic symptoms of a cold, such as congestion and coughing. Bear in mind, the germs that cause colds are contagious. You can pick them up when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you.  To avoid a cold, wash your hands or carry hand sanitizer and try to avoid touching things you know a sick person has been around.  Try and drink plenty of water, keep up on your vitamin C and get plenty of sleep.

          The flu is nothing to mess around with.  Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly, even seemingly overnight. Symptoms of flu include sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough.  Another danger of the flu, especially in children and the elderly is that it can lead to pneumonia.  If you have flu symptoms and start experiencing shortness of breath, go see a doctor immediately!  Practice the same safeguards as you would against colds; wash your hands, pack hand sanitizer for times when you can’t get to a sink, and cover any coughs or sneezing as a courtesy to your fellow students.  And remember, a healthy, well rested body is harder to get sick!


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