Is it the flu or allergies that's causing your sniffles and sneezing?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

While flu season is in full swing in Wichita, it’s also winter allergy season -- making it tougher to tell exactly what’s causing your sniffles and sneezing.

“Flu and allergy both affect the respiratory system, making it harder to breathe, but knowing what ails you can give you a better idea whether it’s time to see the doctor,” says Howard Chang, MD, medical director of the Via Christi Hospital St. Francis Emergency Department. Via Christi is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the United States and the largest Catholic health system in the world.

Here are some indicators as to whether what you’re dealing with is flu or allergies:

  • Flu tends to cause fever, headache, fatigue and aches and pain – symptoms rare in allergies.
  • Allergies tend to cause itchy, watery eyes; cold or flu do not.
  • Seasonal allergies tend to last as long as the allergy season does, which can be up to six weeks. In contrast, flu usually takes less than two weeks to pass.

While cold and flu are caused by different viruses, allergies are instead an immune response to an allergen such as pollen or pet dander. Most people who have a cold or flu can recover at home with rest, fluids and pain relievers for fever and aches. Allergy symptoms are better treated with antihistamines and decongestants.

If you have flu symptoms and you are in a high-risk group or your symptoms are severe, see your health care provider. Your provider may decide you should take antiviral drugs to help you get better faster and prevent serious complications.

Children under age 5, adults over age 65, pregnant women are among those considered high-risk. 

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