Identifying the Fearsome Four: Flu, Strep Throat, Cold, and Allergies

When you start experiencing symptoms of a sickness coming on, it’s important to know what illness you are dealing with so you can address the symptoms and begin treatment options if they are available.

Flu, strep throat, common colds, and even allergies, often have similar symptoms in patients, which can make diagnosis and treatment challenging. This article identifies the similarities and differences between these conditions, so you understand what is causing your body to react and what treatment options are available so you can start feeling better quickly.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of symptoms related to each condition and suggestions on medical treatment(s) available.

How to Differentiate between Flu, Strep Throat, Common Cold & Allergies

Fever High Common Rare No
Headache Common Common Uncommon Uncommon
Pain High Pain occurs while swallowing Low Uncommon
Fatigue High Uncommon Sometimes Never
Extreme Exhaustion High (especially at the beginning) Uncommon Never Never
Runny Nose Sometimes Uncommon Common Common
Sneezing Sometimes Uncommon Common Common
Cough Common (with high chances of turning severe) Uncommon Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort Uncommon Uncommon Low Sometimes
Itchy nose Uncommon Uncommon No Common
Chills Common Common Uncommon Uncommon
Bodyache Common Common Uncommon Uncommon
Difficulty breathing Uncommon Uncommon Uncommon Sometimes
Nausea and vomiting Common among children Sometimes in children Sometimes Uncommon
Dizziness Sometimes Rare Rare Sometimes

If you’re still unsure about what condition you are suffering from and would like to be professionally diagnosed by a healthcare professional, Integra Urgent Care is here to help. We offer quick and convenient diagnoses and treatment options for these various illnesses, so schedule an appointment online or simply walk in for care at any of our DFW-based urgent care centers in Las Colinas, Grand Prairie, and Weatherford.

Flu: Causes & Symptoms

The flu is caused by a virus that can have dramatic and negative health effects for certain individuals when it leads to complications and severe illness, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

The flu virus primarily affects the respiratory system and is a highly contagious illness that is spread through contact with respiratory secretions, like saliva, mucus, or blood. The flu can also be spread indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs or countertops. The flu is most spread during the winter months when people are indoors and in close quarters.

There are two significant types of flu (or “influenza”) viruses: Type A and Type B. Influenza A is the most prevalent type of flu virus which can cause a wide range of symptoms from minor to severe. Influenza B is less common than influenza A and tends to cause milder symptoms. However, it can still lead to serious illness, particularly in young children and the elderly.

Common symptoms of the Flu

The symptoms of the flu and a cold are often very similar. The most common differences involve how quickly symptoms present themselves after exposure and intensity of fever. Symptoms of fever usually present themselves much quicker than a common cold, and fevers run much higher than the common cold (which usually only produces a low-grade fever). Additional flu symptoms can involve severe fatigue, chills, body aches, and coughing.

  • Severe fatigue – Fatigue results from the body’s fight against the infection, and often dehydration and a lack of sleep due to the illness. If your fatigue is severe or lasts over a few days, it is recommended to see a healthcare provider.
  • Chills – Chills are often accompanied by a fever and is your body’s natural response to increasing the body’s core temperature by causing muscles Chills are designed to increase the core temperature of your body.
  • Body aches – Body aches can manifest as a general sense of discomfort or as pain in specific muscles and joints. The aches may be mild or severe, and they can make it difficult to move around or even get out of bed. In some cases, the pain may be so severe that it disturbs your daily activities. If you are experiencing body aches, it is important to rest as much as you can and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter pain medications can also help to relieve symptoms.
  • Coughing – Coughing is another symptom of the flu, and is often expressed as a “dry cough”. The flu virus attacks the respiratory system, causing inflammation and swelling in the airways. This can lead to a buildup of mucus, which in turn can trigger a cough. Coughing can also be a symptom of other respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • Nausea and vomiting – Nausea is an unpleasant feeling that often comes with an urge to vomit. Vomiting, on the other hand, is the act of expelling contents from the stomach through the mouth. Nausea and vomiting can both be extremely debilitating, making it difficult to eat or drink and often leading to dehydration. These flu symptoms are more common in children.

Treatment of Flu

Although there is no cure for the flu, flu viruses can be treated with antiviral drugs to reduce symptoms and the impact this illness has on the body. The sooner you get treated with antiviral drugs after infection, the more effective these treatments are. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also help to address flu symptoms, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Rest and hydration are also important to help your body deal with and heal from a flu virus. The best method to prevent the flu is getting an annual flu shot/flu vaccine while consistently washing your hands and limiting exposure to people who have contracted the flu virus.

It’s important to closely track your symptoms and get medical attention if you are sick for an extended period (more than 7 to 10 days). If you are at risk for flu complications, it’s also recommended to be seen by a medical professional; especially for those with weaker immune systems, including pregnant women, young children, and the elderly.

If your symptoms are severe, you may want to see a medical provider for prescription medication. However, in most cases, the flu will run its course within a week or two.

Strep Throat: Causes & Symptoms


Strep throat is a very contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the back of the throat and the tonsils. The Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria is the most common cause of strep throat and is spread through airborne droplets, bodily secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or blood from an infected person, or direct contact with infected people. Streptococcus pyogenes can also live on surfaces for several hours, so it’s possible to become infected by touching a doorknob or using a drinking glass that an infected person has used. This bacteria can also be spread through contaminated food or surfaces.

Strep throat is more common in children than adults and usually occurs during the fall and winter months. People with weakened immune systems also have a higher chance of developing complications from strep throat.

Common Symptoms of Strep Throat

Strep throat shares similar symptoms with flu and cold, including sore throat, fever, and fatigue; however, symptoms specific to strep include:

  1. Pain and difficulty swallowing
  2. No cough

Some general symptoms of strep throat include the following.

  • Fever – One of the most common signs of strep throat is a high fever. A high fever is not always indicative of strep throat although it’s a common initial symptom for people who have contracted the strep bacteria.
  • Headache – Pain is usually concentrated around the forehead and temples, and often disrupts concentration and sleep.
  • Fatigue

Treatment of Strep Throat

Since strep throat is a bacterium, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics. The sooner you begin a course of antibiotics, the more effective the treatment will be and the quicker you will heal from this illness. If you start a course of antibiotics, it’s important to finish it completely – even if you start feeling better to prevent the infection from reoccurring.

People who have strep throat should also drink plenty of fluids and get rest to speed up the recovery process. Throat lozenges and pain relievers may also be used to help relieve soreness and pain. Gargling with salt water can also help to reduce swelling and pain in the throat.

If you have strep symptoms, a visit to an urgent care center is recommended. Since strep is a bacterial infection, a physician will be able to swab your throat and test for the presence of the bacteria, then prescribe antibiotics to kill off the bacteria and get you on the road to recovery quickly.

Common Cold: Causes & Symptoms


A common cold is caused by a virus and includes numerous variations exist that can lead to illness. The most common viruses that cause colds are rhinoviruses, which are members of the picornavirus family. For some young children with developing immune systems, a cold may seem to last months, although but they may be suffering from several virus variations at one time or back-to-back.

The common cold virus can be transmitted through the air or by direct contact with saliva or mucus from an infected person. Colds are most spread during the winter months when people are indoors and in close contact with each other. However, colds can also be contracted throughout the year.

Common symptoms of colds

Cold symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache, and fever. Cold symptoms are generally milder than flu with symptoms expressing over a longer period of time than flu.

General symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Coughing – Occurs when the lining of the airway becomes irritated and inflamed, causing a reflexive spasm of the muscles around the airway. Coughing helps to clear the airway of mucus and other irritants, but it can be a painful and irritating.
  • Sore throat – If a sore throat lasts more than a week (or accompanied by a fever or rash) you should be seen by a healthcare professional.
  • Runny nose – Caused by the inflammation of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose, which causes them to leak fluid. The body also produces more mucus than usual during a cold as it attempts to flush out the viruses that are causing the cold. As a result, people with a cold often must blow their noses frequently.
  • Sneezing – It is usually one of the first symptoms of a cold, and can occur often during an infection.
  • Headaches
  • Fever – A slight fever (under 101 degrees) is not a cause for concern, although a fever that lasts for over a few days or that reaches a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous and you should seek medical attention.

Treatment of Colds

Although there’s no cure for the common cold, there are ways to treat the symptoms and lessen the duration of the illness. Colds are caused by viruses, which means they can’t be treated with antibiotics. Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest to help your body recover. Gargling with lukewarm salt water can also help to soothe a sore throat. In addition, using a humidifier can help to ease congestion. By taking these simple steps, you can minimize the discomfort of a cold.

If you choose to visit an urgent care clinic, track your symptoms so you can let your physician know how long you’ve been feeling sick and whether your symptoms seem to be improving or getting worse over time.

Allergies: Common Causes & Symptoms


Allergies are caused by an overreaction of your body’s immune system to particular substances, known as an allergens. Many people think of allergies as a spring condition when plants start to bloom and release pollen into the air.

The truth is – allergies can strike during any season. Winter allergens include dust and mountain cedar; Spring often involves grass and tree pollens, Summer is a peak time for grass pollens and molds, and Fall is known for ragweed in many parts of the country.

Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the US and can greatly affect your quality of life if you are one of many people who have a high reactivity to common allergens.

Common Signs of Allergies

Allergies share common symptoms with other illnesses, such as cold and flu, although a symptom specific to allergies includes itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Allergies don’t usually produce a fever, so if you are experiencing a fever, you might have come down with a cold, flu, or strep throat.

Treatment of allergies

The most common treatment for allergies is avoiding allergens and over-the-counter medications. The most common medications used to treat allergies are antihistamines, which help to block the action of histamine, a substance that is released during an allergic reaction. If avoidance and medication are not effective, allergy shots may be recommended. Allergy shots contain small amounts of the allergens that trigger the allergy, and over time this can help to desensitize the individual and reduce the severity of reactions.

While an urgent care visit can’t completely cure your allergy-related symptoms, a healthcare provider can recommend and prescribe treatments that may help alleviate your symptoms, including intra-nasal steroids.

Prevention Tips

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding colds, strep throat, the flu. Here are a few prevention tips:

  • Cold – Wash your hands regularly. Avoid close contact with someone who has a cold.
  • Flu – Get the annual flu vaccine. Wash your hands regularly. Avoid close contact with someone who has the flu.
  • Allergy – Avoid allergens, such as pollen, house dust mites, mold, smoke, and pet dander.
  • Strep Throat – Clean your hands. Avoid close contact with people with sore throats, colds, or other upper respiratory infections. Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Integra Urgent Care Can Help – Visit Us Today!

Integra Urgent Care offers convenient, on-demand healthcare for all non-life-threatening, non-chronic conditions, that includes flu, cold, strep, and allergies, in our three DFW walk-in clinics in Las Colinas (Irving), Grand Prairie, and Weatherford.

If you are feeling sick, just walk-in to any of our clinics or check-in online so you can wait your turn in the comfort of your own home or vehicle. Our friendly, qualified staff provide urgent care services to patients of all ages, and we understand that when you are sick the last thing you want to do is wait for an appointment in a few days or pay 10x more for services at an emergency room.

We are open 7 days a week with extended hours on weekdays and offer a variety of diagnostic testing to identify what is causing your illness and provide effective treatment options. Integra Urgent Care also offer telemedicine/telehealth services and we accept most health insurance plans. No insurance? No problem. We offer competitive self-pay rates on most services we provide.

To schedule an appointment or learn more about Integra Urgent Care, visit us at We look forward to serving you!

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