The Difference Between Cold, Flu, and Summer Allergies

The Difference Between Cold, Flu, and Summer Allergies

This summer, colds and flus are hitting harder than ever. As pandemic restrictions are loosened and more people gather, the world’s most common viruses are taking advantage—and our natural defenses are struggling to catch up. After 18 months of social distancing and masking, our adaptive immune systems—the branch of immunity that gets trained and educated by exposure to germs—hasn’t had a chance to prepare.  

This is why experts are predicting an especially tough year for colds and flus. And it’s already begun, with what’s turning out to be the worst summer cold season in recent history.1  

Seasonal Summer Allergies 

Seasonal allergies add to the immune overload we are currently facing. As temperatures rise year after year, allergy seasons get stronger and longer, with more pollen and extended exposure times. 2021 is forecasted to be a particularly intense year for seasonal allergies, including hay fever that typically comes in the mid-late summer.  

Summer Allergy Symptoms: 

Allergies and colds share many of the same symptoms including nasal congestion and sneezing, but allergies are often characterized by itchy and watery eyes, clear mucus, uncontrolled sneezing, throat tickling, sinus and head pressure. In addition, allergy symptoms tend to stay the same, while cold symptoms will get worse before improving.2 

The Difference Between the Flu and the Common Cold  

Patients often ask me how to tell when they have a cold and when they have the flu—and this is an important question. Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States, and they’re usually caused by one of two types of viruses: Rhinoviruses that predominate in the fall and winter, and mainly infect the upper respiratory tract. Non-polio enteroviruses on the other hand, tend to dominate in the summer season, and cause more GI symptoms and gut health issues, as well as sudden fever (often causing them to be confused with the flu). The most common symptoms of a cold, regardless of the season, are nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and a runny nose. Depending on which virus is the offender, you might also feel a headache, cough, postnasal drip, burning eyes, muscle aches, or a decreased appetite. Most people catch a cold without knowing it—the symptoms only begin in 1 to 5 days. Usually the first sign is irritation in the nose or a scratchy feeling in the throat, followed within hours by sneezing and a nasal discharge. Within 1 to 3 days, the nasal secretions usually become thicker and perhaps yellow or green—this is a normal part of the common cold, and not a reason for taking antibiotics.  

Colds usually resolve in about 7 days, with perhaps a lingering cough for another week. If a cold lasts longer, it could be a different problem, such as a sinus infection or allergies.  

Influenza, or the flu, on the other hand, can be a much more serious illness with severe symptoms like extreme fatigue, pain and headaches, and high fever. The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a variety of influenza viruses. In those with compromised immune systems, the flu can be deadly. Seniors, toddlers, infants, and people with chronic health conditions are at much higher risk for serious flu complications. As with a cold, you’ll usually feel symptoms 1 to 4 days after you are infected. You can spread the flu to others before your symptoms start and for another 3 to 4 days after your symptoms appear.  Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include severe body aches, chills, dry cough, high fever, headache, sore throat, and a stuffy nose. Typically, the fever begins to decline on the second or third day of the illness. Most people who get the flu recover within a week (although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a few weeks afterwards).

Colds, Flus and Allergies Impact Your Immune Health 

Allergies and viral infections fall on opposite ends of the immune health spectrum. Allergies, similar to autoimmune conditions, are caused by an overactive immune system that reacts too strongly to environmental triggers like pollen, molds and other common allergens. This out-of-control inflammatory immune response causes symptoms that resemble an infection.3 

Colds, flus and other viral infections are on the other end of the immune spectrum, causing illness when the body’s immune responses aren’t strong enough to recognize the invaders and quickly neutralize them. In cases of aggressive viral infections, the immune system can also be thrown into overdrive—with deadly consequences. In these cases, master alarm protein galectin-3 unleashes an uncontrolled inflammatory cytokine storm that causes vital organs to shut down.4 

Regardless of the challenge you’re facing, healthy immune function requires precision and balance to efficiently control pathogens, without the out-of-control inflammation that can be so deadly.  

How To Support and Balance Your Immune System  

Medicinal mushrooms are ideal immune trainers. Select species of medicinal mushrooms work with an innate intelligence in the body, and help to modulate and educate the immune system so that it reacts appropriately to whatever challenge it encounters. These powerful fungi can rein in an overactive immune system to help combat allergies and autoimmune flare-ups, while at the same time, enhancing the ability of immune cells to fight off viruses, cancer cells and other pathogens. Medicinal mushrooms are also excellent detoxifiers, helping to absorb toxins from tissues and exchange them with unique health-promoting compounds that support optimal function.5 

My leading recommendation for optimal immune balance is a first-in-class botanically-enhanced mushroom formula that contains 6 powerful functional mushroom varieties including Reishi, Cordyceps, Coriolus, and Maitake, that give powerful immune support regardless of the season or symptoms. By growing these mushrooms on a blend of immune-supporting herbs, we’re able to fortify them with additional phytonutrients and compounds for the highest level of immune and total-body support.  

Clinically Proven Modified Citrus Pectin 

Clinically researched Modified Citrus Pectin is an unparalleled super-nutrient shown in over 70 published studies to help treat and prevent our most serious conditions—including cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and more. This form of Modified Citrus Pectin works to balance the immune system and prevent immune overreactions, including the deadly cytokine storm caused by the body’s overreaction to aggressive viruses.  

Whether you’re seeking to increase your immune defenses against viruses and other invaders, or looking for a solution to reduce inflammatory immune flare ups—or both—these integrative strategies can support optimal immune responses and overall health…so you can stay healthy all year long.   


  1. Tara Parker Pope. Why Everyone Has the Worst Summer Cold Ever. New York Times website. July 22, 2021. Accessed July 29, 2021.  

  1. Is it a common cold, or allergies? WebMD website. May 15, 2021. Accessed July 29, 2021.  

  1. Toskala E. Immunology. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2014 Sep;4 Suppl 2:S21-7.  

  1. Caniglia JL, Guda MR, Asuthkar S, Tsung AJ, Velpula KK. A potential role for Galectin-3 inhibitors in the treatment of C19. PeerJ. 2020;8:e9392.  

  1. Wasser SP. Medicinal Mushrooms in Human Clinical Studies. Part I. Anticancer, Oncoimmunological, and Immunomodulatory Activities: A Review. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2017;19(4):279-317.  

  1. Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619.