NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s warm, it’s freezing, it’s warm again, and then cold again. This roller coaster weather is making a lot of people feel sick.

So is it a cold, the flu, or a winter allergy that you’re suffering from? CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez can help you tell the three apart, and do something about them.

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It is cold and flu season, and surprisingly also allergy season. Not pollen, but molds, dust, mites, and other indoor allergens.

Trouble is, the symptoms for all three are really similar, but treatment can be very different.

Donna Monte-Probst is a nurse, so you would think she could tell the difference between a cold, allergies, and the flu, but her symptoms have her a little confused.

“Runny nose, watery eyes, a little congestion. Sometimes I’m sneezing, a dry cough,” she said.

Even doctors can have a bit of a hard time.

“Not always, for allergies and colds the symptoms are almost identical. Flu is a little easier because there’s high fevers, usually over 101, lots of fatigue, can’t get out of bed, but allergies and colds are very similar,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, of the Allergy & Asthma Network, said.

The main thing that tells you it’s probably the flu is the sudden onset of symptoms including; fever above 101, intense muscle, body, and head aches, deep fatigue, and a dry cough.

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The only good news there is an antiviral medication that can ease and shorten flu symptoms if you start it within 48 hrs of developing symptoms.

Telling the difference between a cold and allergies is much tougher because the symptoms are virtually identical.

“The timing can be helpful. Someone’s been suffering for 2, 3, 4 weeks, something more chronic, it’s more than likely an allergy. Whereas colds have a quicker turnaround in a week,” Dr. Parikh said.

In other words, if you haven’t gotten better in a week, it may be an allergy, and there are medications for that from nasal sprays to antihistamines.

Of course the best strategy for germs is prevention which means lots and lots of handwashing.

Whether it’s a cold or a flu plenty of rest and fluids will help you get better sooner. Coming to work while sick can slow your recovery and spread germs to friends and co-workers.


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