Name that Sneeze!

No one wants to be sick. However, if you know what type of illness you’re facing, you can take the right steps toward feeling better as quickly as possible. With the help of Susan Cavins-Stewart, MD, family practitioner at Riverview Medical Group’s Hazel Dell Family Care, we’ve provided checklists of symptoms associated with four different medical problems you may find yourself facing this spring.

Common COLD symptoms include:

Rhinorrea (runny nose)


Nasal congestion

Sore throat


Low grade fever of 100 degrees or lower

A sudden, severe onset of symptoms

“The average child will have up to five colds per year, and that’s normal,” says Dr. Cavins-Stewart. Adults typically catch two to three. She reports that common colds will generally pass on their own within 5 to 7 days, and recommends cold-sufferers rest as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. If your symptoms last beyond two weeks, this could signal a secondary infection that requires treatment. You may also want to make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms begin getting worse.

Common SEASONAL ALLERGY symptoms include:

Rhinorrea (runny nose)


Nasal congestion

Nasal itching

Cough related to post-nasal drip

Eye symptoms including redness, itching and watering

Triggering of asthma symptoms

A pattern of symptoms

Seasonal allergies tend to be more common when things are budding and blooming, says Dr. Cavins-Stewart. If you suspect you have allergies, she suggests keeping a journal of the type of symptoms you are experiencing and when, as this may help your doctor determine the allergy’s cause. You should start by visiting your family doctor, who may refer you to an allergist or asthma specialist.

Common FLU symptoms include:

Sore throat



General muscle aches or pains

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (occasionally)

Fever of 101 degrees or above

Chills and hot flashes

Flu season can start as early as October and last through May in some states. A person who is young and otherwise healthy can treat flu symptoms at home, but should avoid exposing others to the illness, says Dr. Cavins-Stewart. In contrast, if you have asthma, diabetes or heart disease, you should contact your physician immediately to determine whether you should come in for evaluation or start taking flu medication, she says. This medication can decrease the illness’s intensity and duration and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization.

Common ASTHMA symptoms include:

Shortness of breath



As with allergies, Dr. Cavins-Stewart says that if you believe you may be suffering from asthma, you should keep a record of your symptoms. The next step is seeing your family doctor to determine an asthma plan. However, if you suspect you are having an asthma attack and have not been previously diagnosed, you need to be evaluated immediately. This evaluation can take place in urgent care or an emergency room, depending on the patient’s level of distress. There is more of a sense of urgency with asthma than with some of the other conditions discussed above, “because it can get to a point of causing severe obstruction and even respiratory failure,” says Dr. Cavins-Stewart.

Of course, preventing an illness in the first place is always best. Dr. Cavins-Stewart encourages people to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. She also recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months or older barring an egg allergy, history of Gillian-Barré Syndrome or past problems with the shot.

Dr. Cavins-Stewart points to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at as a reliable source of additional information. If you still aren’t sure why you feel sick or want to learn more about your treatment options, don’t be shy about scheduling an appointment with your family doctor. Finding the source of your particular symptoms will lead to a correct diagnosis and the right course of treatment to get you on the mend as soon as possible.

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