Causes: Colds are caused by one of hundreds of common viruses that can easily be transmitted from person to person.
Symptoms: Stuffed nose/congestion, runny nose, fever, headache, cough, sore throat or fatigue.
When to see a doctor: Colds can sometimes lead to other infections. If a cold lasts longer than 10 days, consult with your physician.
Prevention: Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing. Drink a lot of fluids (water is best) and wash you hands often.
General treatment strategies: Since there's no cure for a cold, the best advice is to get plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids, especially water to moisten mucus membranes. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
Causes: The flu is an acute respiratory infection caused by a virus. The virus is spread through airborne droplets of respiratory fluids when a person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms: Fever, muscle aches and pains, dry cough, runny nose, stuffed nose/congestion, headache, and fatigue.
When to see a doctor: Call your doctor if you hink you may have the flu. Call immediately if unexplained symptoms develop or you have an increased fever, blood in your mucus, neck pain or stiffness, or chest pain.
Prevention: Get a flu shot, especially if you're 65 or older or have chronic heart or lung disease. It takes time for your body to build up an immunity, so be sure to get the shot several weeks before flu season begins (late October or early November). Note: Do not get the flu vaccine if you are allergic to eggs (they're used to make the vaccine) or have a fever caused by another illness. Avoid crowds during flu season.
General treatment strategies: Rest, drink a lot of fluids, and take a pain reliever if you have a fever or any other physical discomfort.
Causes: Any airborne irritant that triggers the release of histamine in your body. Trees and grass pollen is most common in Spring and Summer. Fall is the time for ragweed pollen, dust and molds.
Symptoms: A runny or stuffed nose, itchy/watering eyes, headache, sneezing, or sore throat.
When to see a doctor: If symptoms linger or worsen, make an appointment with your doctor. You may have a more serious infection or sinusitis.
Prevention: Try to avoid the allergens that trigger a response. Stay indoors as much as possible during hay fever season. Keep windows shut and use your air conditioner. Try not to rub your eyes. Get regular exercise, which helps keep nasal passages open. If over-the-counter remedies don't work effectively, see a doctor for other medications or desensitization therapy.
General treatment strategies: The same as those listed under Prevention. If these don't help, an antihistamines or nasal spray may bring relief.