Cold, Flu, or Allergy?

You’re feeling pretty lousy. You’ve got sniffles, sneezing, and a sore throat. Is it a cold, flu, or allergies? It can be hard to tell them apart because they share so many symptoms. But understanding the differences will help you choose the best treatment.

“If you know what you have, you won’t take medications that you don’t need, that aren’t effective, or that might even make your symptoms worse,” says NIH’s Dr. Teresa Hauguel, an expert on infectious diseases that affect breathing.

Cold, flu, and allergy all affect your respiratory system, which can make it hard to breathe. Each condition has key symptoms that set them apart.

Colds and flu are caused by different viruses. “As a rule of thumb, the symptoms associated with the flu are more severe,” says Hauguel. Both illnesses can lead to a runny, stuffy nose; congestion; cough; and sore throat. But the flu can also cause high fever that lasts for 3-4 days, along with a headache, fatigue, and general aches and pain. These symptoms are less common when you have a cold.

“Allergies are a little different, because they aren’t caused by a virus,” Hauguel explains. “Instead, it’s your body’s immune system reacting to a trigger, or allergen, which is something you’re allergic to.” If you have allergies and breathe in things like pollen or pet dander, the immune cells in your nose and airways may overreact to these harmless substances. Your delicate respiratory tissues may then swell, and your nose may become stuffed up or runny.

“Allergies can also cause itchy, watery eyes, which you don’t normally have with a cold or flu,” Hauguel adds.

Allergy symptoms usually last as long as you’re exposed to the allergen, which may be about 6 weeks during pollen seasons in the spring, summer, or fall. Colds and flu rarely last beyond 2 weeks.

Most people with a cold or flu recover on their own without medical care. But check with a health care provider if symptoms last beyond 10 days or if symptoms aren’t relieved by over-the-counter medicines.

To treat colds or flu, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. If you have the flu, pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can reduce fever or aches. Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or decongestants. See the “Wise Choices” box for more details.

Be careful to avoid “drug overlap” when taking medicines that list 2 or more active ingredients on the label. For example, if you take 2 different drugs that contain acetaminophen—one for a stuffy nose and the other for headache—you may be getting too much acetaminophen.

“Read medicine labels carefully—the warnings, side effects, dosages. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you have children who are sick,” Hauguel says. “You don’t want to overmedicate, and you don’t want to risk taking a medication that may interact with another.”


Symptoms Cold Flu Airborne Allergy
Fever Rare Usual, high (100-102 °F), sometimes higher, especially in young children); lasts 3-4 days Never
Headache Uncommon Common Uncommon
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe Never
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual, can last up to 3 weeks Sometimes
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual, at the beginning of the illness Never
Stuffy, Runny Nose Common Sometimes Common
Sneezing Usual Sometimes Usual
Sore Throat Common Sometimes Sometimes
Cough Common Common, can become severe Sometimes
Chest Discomfort Mild to moderate Common Rare, except for those with allergic asthma
Treatment Get plenty of rest.
Stay hydrated. (Drink plenty of fluids.)
Aspirin (ages 18 and up), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for aches and pains
Get plenty of rest.
Stay hydrated.
Aspirin (ages 18 and up), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for aches, pains, and fever
Antiviral medicines (see your doctor)
Avoid allergens (things that you’re allergic to)
Nasal steroids
Prevention Wash your hands often.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold.
Get the flu vaccine each year.
Wash your hands often.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu.
Avoid allergens, such as pollen, house dust mites, mold, pet dander, cockroaches.
Complications Sinus infection middle ear infection, asthma Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threatening Sinus infection, middle ear infection, asthma

Managing Insulin in an Emergency

From wildfires to hurricanes, disasters seem to be getting more and more common. Being prepared for an emergency is important for everyone, but it’s even more important if you have a chronic health condition like diabetes. Routines suddenly change, supplies and medicines can be hard to get and hard to store, and added stress makes it harder to manage your blood sugar. Read on for important information about storing and using insulin in an emergency.

Using Insulin

In a power outage when refrigerated insulin isn’t available:

  • Try to keep your insulin as cool as possible, but make sure not to freeze it. Insulin that has been frozen can break down and will be less effective.
  • Keep your insulin away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight, which also make it less effective.
  • For up to 4 weeks, you can use insulin in opened or unopened vials that have been stored at room temperature (between 59°F and 86°F).
  • Realistically, you may have to use insulin that has been stored above 86°F. If so, monitor your blood sugar regularly. If you’re living in an emergency shelter, let someone in charge know if your blood sugar is too high or low, so they can get help if needed. Contact your doctor as soon as the emergency is over.

Switching Insulin

In an emergency, you may need to use a different insulin brand or type instead of your usual insulin. You should work with your doctor if you need to switch insulin brands or types, but that might not be possible in crisis conditions. In that case, follow this emergency guidance from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Using an Insulin Pump

If you use an insulin pump, you may be able to substitute another insulin for your usual insulin. Check the instructions for your pump to see which insulin types will work. The guidance also explains which insulin types you can use instead of your usual insulin if you need to switch from using your pump to using injectable insulin (taken with a needle).

Getting Back to Normal

When you can get your usual insulin and store it properly, throw away any insulin that was stored at room temperature or exposed to very high or low temperatures. Plan to visit your doctor if you have questions about managing your diabetes going forward or have any other health concerns.


5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

Your recipe for staying on track no matter what’s cooking.

‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food. Temptations are everywhere, and parties and travel disrupt daily routines. What’s more, it all goes on for weeks.

How do you stick to your diabetes meal plan when everyone around you seems to be splurging? Here are 5 tips that can help:

1. Holiday-Proof Your Plan

You may not be able to control what food you’re served, and you’re bound to see other people eating a lot of tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:

  • Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
  • Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
  • If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. It will be harder to keep your blood sugar in control, and you’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

Holiday Hacks

  • Have pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie. Even with a dollop of whipped cream, you’ll cut calories and sugar by at least a third.
  • Break physical activity up into smaller chunks so it fits into your schedule, like walking 10 minutes several times a day.
  • Schedule some “me” time every day—a nap, dog walk, or hot bath to get your energy back for the next celebration.

2. Outsmart the Buffet

When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier:

  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
  • Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines.

Also plan to stay on top of your blood sugar. Check it more often during the holidays, and if you take medicine, ask your doctor if the amount needs to be adjusted.

3. Fit in Favorites

No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like Aunt Edna’s pumpkin pie. Slow down and savor a small serving, and make sure to count it in your meal plan.

If you plan for it, no food needs to be on the naughty list.

4. Keep Moving

You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year, and physical activity can get crowded out. But being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.

5. Get Your Zzz’s

Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar, and when you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remember what the season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the fun, it’s easier to focus less on the food.

Find the Right Workout Buddy

Trying to get more physically active? You don’t have to go it alone. How about working out with a little help from your friends?

Buddies With Benefits

When you work out with a partner, you’re likely to:

  • Feel more motivated. When you and your buddy encourage each other, you’ll work harder (and get better results!). And there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.
  • Be more adventurous. It’s easier to try new things with a buddy. You may just find an activity you love, one that feels more like fun and less like a workout.
  • Be more consistent. When someone else is counting on you to show up, you won’t want to let them down.

To enjoy all those benefits, you’ll need the right workout buddy. Look for someone with the same goals, schedule, and commitment you have. Someone who makes you feel positive and inspires you to hit the trail or treadmill on a regular basis.

How do you find the right fit? Talk to friends, co-workers, neighbors, people at the gym. Or find a buddy closer to home: What about a hike with your dog, who thinks every walk is the best walk ever? Now quality time is also fitness time. Good move!

You already have your phone with you. Why not make it work? Try a social media workout app to connect with friends and others that share your goals and can help keep you motivated.

Even if you like to work out alone, changing things up with a buddy every once in a while can help you work out harder and learn new things. You can switch back to solo workouts any time.

Dealing with Diabetes Burnout

So far, you’ve had diabetes; it hasn’t had you. You’ve been watching what you eat, making time for physical activity, taking meds, checking your blood sugar, checking your blood sugar again. But then something takes the wind out of your sails. Maybe you’ve been trying hard but not seeing results. Or you developed a health problem related to diabetes in spite of your best efforts.

When you feel discouraged and frustrated, you may slip into unhealthy habits, stop monitoring your blood sugar, even skip doctor’s appointments. It happens to many—if not most—people with diabetes, often after years of good management. You’re in the land of diabetes burnout. How can you get back to healthy living as soon as possible?

Get Your Team Involved

Call on your primary care doctor, eye doctor, podiatrist, dietitian, diabetes educator—anyone and everyone—to help you refocus on your goals. It’s easier for you to see what’s not working instead of what you’re doing right. Your team can remind you of the progress you’ve made and help you with new ideas and strategies.

Don’t Let Perfect be the Enemy of Good

Perfect blood sugar control isn’t necessary and may not even be possible. And sometimes seeing the little picture is better than the big one. Try taking small steps—such as lowering your A1c by 1%—instead of focusing on big goals. You’re still headed in the same direction, but you’ll have more successes along the way.

Connect with People Who Get You

Tap into encouragement, insights, and support from people who’ve been there.

The DOC , Type 2 and Me

Written by Gary Stem

I am long-term Type 2 diabetic, diagnosed in the mid-1990’s. I’m like a lot of T2’s in that I do not remember the date or even the year. I progressed through all the available treatments of the day until one day my doctor said it, “Gary I believe it is time for you to start insulin treatment.” I knew it was coming, I had been threatened with it and had resisted it for years. I walked out of the office that day with a Levemir prescription; it was that day that I found the diabetic online community in the form of TuDiabetes.

Today I am an insulin pumping Type 2 diabetic. How I got to this point has been shaped by my participation at TuDiabetes. The knowledge I gained helped to guide my way; I soon learned that basal insulin alone would not be enough, soon MDI was prescribed and finally a pump, I have been pumping now for six years.

How my diabetes looks can best be summed up by something, a Type 1 friend said to me. She said, “Gary, Your diabetes looks almost exactly like mine.” I hadn’t realized it until then, but she was right. I do all the things a Type 1 does. I count carbs and calculate boluses, I monitor my blood sugar, and I do corrections when needed. I experience highs and lows. I do basal testing, and I have defined carb ratios and correction factors. I do pretty much everything any other insulin-dependent person does.

The diabetic online community, TuDiabetes, has been my information source and my lifeline, I was not taught all I needed to know by the medical community, I learned it from the members of TuDiabetes, I sometimes feel that they saved me. I learned more from them than about basals and boluses, more than low carb dieting and exercising, I learned that others out there cared about me. They encouraged me, and they consoled me. I learned it is more than the diabetic online community; it is a diabetic online family.

I realized in the earliest part of my involvement in this diabetic online family that I wanted to give back to it. I did everything I could think of to provide support. Eventually, I was asked to be part of the TuDiabetes Administrative Team, I have served on this team for six years now, it is my way of giving back to the community.

For all TuDiabetes has done for me the significant thing about it is not how it has helped me. I am reminded of the importance of TuDiabetes each time I hear a new member or even a not so new member says this or something similar, “I am so glad I have found this community of people like me, I no longer feel alone.” I smile each time I hear this said; it confirms our purpose.

TuDiabetes exist so that no person touch by diabetes should feel alone. I think that is true for the entire DOC. I am proud to be a part of it.

Connect with Gary and many others in our Forum. Join the conversations!

Healthy Living

Browse through our educational resources, the more you know about your diabetes the better outcomes in your management. 



7 Helpful Tips for Checking Your Blood Sugar and Caring for Your Meter

Most meters come with three parts:

  • Lancet – A needle that is used to get a drop of blood from your finger or another part of your body.
  • Test Strip – The strip where you put the blood you are checking.
  • Control Solutions – Liquid used to make sure your meter is working properly.

Meters come in different sizes. Meters also come with different features. Some meters let you track and print out your results, you can upload them to a cloud service or they can get transferred to your smartphone via bluetooth. Others have audio and larger screens to help people who have problems seeing. The meter you choose should fit your lifestyle and your needs. We are now seeing more and more meters providng the option of report creation and data analysis, this is extremely helpful to identify patterns and make the needed changes.

7 Helpful Tips for Checking Your Blood Sugar and Caring for Your Meter

  • Read the directions for the meter and the test strips before you start using them.
  • Wash your hands before you check your blood sugar. Food, juice or dirt on your fingers may affect your blood sugar result.
  • Use the right strip for your meter and callibration code if needed. The meter may give you the wrong results if you use the wrong test strip or wrong callibration code.
  • Write down your results and the date and time you checked. Do this even if your meter tracks your numbers. Take the results with you when you go to your doctor.
  • Clean your meter as directed. Glass cleaners, ammonia and other cleaning products may damage your meter.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how your medicines will affect your blood sugar. Other medications can affect your blood sugar reading.
  • Take your meter with you when you go to your doctor. This way you can check your blood sugar in front of the doctor or nurse to make sure you are doing it the right way. Your health care provider may be able to print out your blood sugar results from your meter.