As seasonal allergies come to their peak, it’s important to know what the differences are between typical sniffles and actual illnesses that can result in fatalities.

Mononucleosis, also known as Mono, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Many adults have been exposed to the virus, but have built up antibodies to protect their immune systems. Mono causes an enlargement of the spleen and can even cause the spleen to rupture (if this happens seek medical attention immediately). Problems with the liver can also be caused by mono. Be careful to monitor for complications that include anemia, thrombocytopenia, and heart problems.

Symptoms: fatigue, sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, swollen tonsils, headache, rash, swollen spleen*

Diagnosis: a physical exam performed by a doctor and blood tests (antibody and white blood cell counts) will determine if you have mono.

Treatment: fluids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, lozenges, rest.

*left side of the upper abdomen

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Strep Throat, known commonly as Strep, is caused by streptococcal bacteria. There are different kinds of strep bacteria. Most common sore throats are not strep, but viral infections not caused by the specific strep bacterias. A sore throat accompanied by cold symptoms is most likely not strep.

Symptoms: sudden and severe sore throat, pain with swallowing, fever over 101°F, swollen tonsils or lymph nodes, white or yellow spots on the back of throat, headache, belly pain, loss of appetite, body aches.

Diagnosis: a physical exam performed by a doctor, as well as a rapid strep test (and culture test, sent to a lab) will determine if you have strep.

Treatment: antibiotics such as amoxicillin cephalexin, and penicillin are often prescribed.

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Influenza, the “flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Though it can range from mild to severe, it can even prove fatal if left untreated. Vaccines are available to treat the flu. The most common strain of flu changes each year.

Symptoms: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Diagnosis: most flu tests are “rapid influenza diagnostic tests” (source) and can provide results within an hour. Some of these tests vary in accuracy. For more accurate results, specialized laboratories offer swab testing. None require a blood sample.

Treatment: Antiviral drugs will be prescribed to treat the flu. This included pills, liquids, powders, or intravenous solutions. A prescription is required for antiviral drugs. Getting a flu shot can help prevent the flu.

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