woman coughing

Cold vs. Allergies: What’s the Difference Between the Two?

If you’ve ever had a runny nose in the middle of summer, you’ve probably always wondered if it is indeed a cold caused by a viral upper respiratory infection or just seasonal allergies. Both conditions have very similar symptoms, and it’s easy to mistake one for the other. The question is, what’s the difference between colds and allergies? With help from a local primary care doctor, we try to answer what the common cold and seasonal allergies are and how you can tell one from the other.

What Are Summer Colds?

The common cold is caused by any one of hundreds of different viruses that attack the upper respiratory system. You’ve probably heard of rhinovirus, which is just one category of viruses that are one of the leading causes of the common cold. There are hundreds of different strains of rhinovirus that cause colds, but catching a specific strain of the virus could actually help you produce immunity to that particular strain. 

Compared to seasonal allergies, colds are upper respiratory infections that could happen to you all year round but are more prevalent in the colder months. Colds aren’t caused by cold climates or exposure to cold air. Some of the common symptoms of colds include:

  • Body Aches and Pains
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore Throat

What Are Summer Allergies?

On the other hand, allergies work in an entirely different way. They can sometimes mimic the effects of a cold, and they’re also very likely to strike in winter. However, they are far more common in spring, summer, and fall because of the proliferation of allergens in the air. 

Allergies are manifestations of the body’s allergic reaction to plant pollens released during the growing season. These allergens are often inhaled into the nasal passages. Once your body detects the presence of these allergens, they will begin the process of ejecting it out of your body through sneezing, resulting in a runny and stuffy nose. Some of the most common symptoms caused by seasonal allergies are:

  • Itchy, Watery Eyes
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Skin Rashes, such as Eczema or Hives
  • Sneezing and or Wheezing

How Is a Summer Allergy Different from a Cold?

The fundamental difference between colds and allergies is that the former results from the body’s immune system combatting a disease-causing virus. The latter, on the other hand, happens when the immune system incorrectly identifies an otherwise harmless protein like pollen, pet dander, or dust.

Allergies typically cause a clear nasal discharge, accompanied by an itchy sensation in the sinuses, ears, eyes, or throat. Sneezing is not uncommon, nor is the feeling of stuffiness in the head. It’s very much possible for your eyes to become red and irritated as a result of an allergic reaction.

According to a primary care physician in Santa Fe, NM, the common cold may provoke certain symptoms that are not shared by allergies, such as sore throat, fever, or body aches. Also, a typical cold will run its course within seven to ten days. However, allergies can last for much longer, depending on what you’re allergic to and what happens to be pollinating. As long as you are exposed to these allergens, you will continue to experience the symptoms of seasonal allergies.


Allergies are caused by pollen and other similar allergens floating around in the air, while colds result from a viral infection. Generally speaking, allergies do not cause fever, and they are much more persistent. A cold from a viral infection will last a couple of days until your body has successfully eradicated the virus.

Aspen Medical Center welcomes you to our locally owned outpatient medical facility in Santa Fe and Espanola, NM. We offer family urgent care and primary care services to all our clients. If you have any health concerns that need to be addressed, let our urgent care specialists examine them for you. Contact us today to set an appointment.


What You Need to Know About the Flu Vaccine This Flu Season

Flu may seem like a common disease, but it can sometimes be serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Influenza is so much more than that. Depending on your circumstances, you could get a high fever, profound body aches, serious fatigue, and so on. 

It may not be a problem for young and healthy people, but the situation can be complex for young children and older adults. The worst thing about the flu is how quickly the illness evolves. It should not be taken lightly.

Luckily, there are many ways to protect people from the flu these days. The seasonal flu vaccine may be innocuous but it saves many lives every year. If you are curious how the seasonal flu vaccine works, here is some vital information you should know:

How Does Flu Vaccine Work? 

Similar to other vaccines, the flu vaccine works by triggering a person’s immune response and creating a defense against disease-causing pathogens. When a person develops antibodies against a particular disease, these antibodies can fight against and provide protection from the virus. 

As mentioned earlier, different kinds of flu become contagious depending on the season. 

Researchers predict what flu virus would be more active during a particular period and produce the specific vaccine to defend against it.

In the US, there is a vaccine that fights four kinds of flu viruses (quadrivalent). This flu vaccine is meant to fight the following viruses:

  • The Influenza A (H1N1) virus
  • The Influenza A (H3N2) virus
  • Two Influenza B viruses

Another one can fight three different flu viruses, called the trivalent. It can kill the following viruses: 

  • The Influenza A (H1N1) virus
  • The Influenza A (H3N2) virus
  • One of the two Influenza B viruses

Persons aged six months and older are encouraged to get a flu vaccine every year. Keep in mind, however, that the antibodies work after two weeks, so schedule your flu shot before the flu season—ideally, by the end of October.

The Types of Flu Vaccines You Would Encounter

Here are some essential things you need to know about the available vaccines:

The Trivalent Flu Shot

This flu vaccine is made from three ingredients approved for people aged 65 and above. It also comes with an adjuvant, an element that helps the body build a more robust immune response.

The Quadrivalent Flu Shot

This flu shot is made from four ingredients, and it can be used for people of different age groups, particularly those six months and older. Here are some common ones you might encounter: 

  • FluMist Quadrivalent: Good for people aged two to 49 years old; not ideal for pregnant people, immunocompromised persons, and the like
  • Flucelvax Quadrivalent: Recommended for people four years old and above
  • Flublok Quadrivalent: Approved for people 18 years and older
  • Quadrivalent Flu Shot Using an Adjuvant: Best for people aged 65 years and older
  • Fluzone High-Dose: Also recommended for people aged 65 years and older


Both the trivalent and the quadrivalent influenza vaccines are generally available in clinics and hospitals. Before choosing one, make sure that the vaccine you would receive is appropriate for your age and health. The vaccines should also be labeled suitable for a particular period. For example, in today’s time, the products you would encounter are the influenza vaccine products for the 2020 to 2021 season. 

Get your flu shots every year from a trusted clinic. Aspen Medical Center is a provider of state-of-the-art urgent care and primary care in Sta. Fe. We offer immunization services as one of our essential primary care services. If you need one, call us today at 505-466-5885 to book an appointment. 

Seven ways to stay healthy during cold and flu season

During the colder months of the year (which in Santa Fe, New Mexico is generally from October to April or even May), there are many upper respiratory viruses circulating that can cause colds and flu-like illnesses. This leads to missed work, doctor’s visits, and generally not feeling well—it is no fun to be sick. In the worst case scenario, influenza, or the flu, can lead to hospitalization and every year some people even die of influenza. These viruses are very contagious so when you get sick, you can expose others and make them sick as well. Although there are possible treatments for influenza (the flu), there is no cure for the common cold. Therefore, prevention is key. Here are 7 ways to improve your chances of staying healthy during cold and flu season:

1. Wash your hands. It is very important to wash your hands frequently. Wet your hands, use soap to create a lather, and then rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds; then rinse and dry. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. This is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and decrease your chances of getting sick.

2. Get regular exercise. It is important to get regular exercise to help your body stay healthy and to maintain a strong immune system. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends aerobic exercise. Most healthy adults should get 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, or a combination of the two. Exercise helps the body function more efficiently and helps the immune system fight off potential illnesses.

3. Drink water. Our bodies are more than 50% water. In order to stay healthy, it is important to keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water everyday. One common recommendation, the “8×8 rule,” is to drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day.

4. Get adequate sleep. If you want to stay healthy, it is important to get adequate sleep every night. When you don’t get enough rest and get “run down,” it can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Adults vary in how much sleep they need, but most of us need 7 to 9 hours a night. Children and adolescents need more sleep.

5. Get your flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu shot every year, ideally before the end of October. However, getting the flu shot later in the season is okay too. In New Mexico, the flu season can last until May. The flu shot helps decrease your risk of getting the flu. It will also protect your loved ones from exposure to the flu. At Aspen Medical Center, we offer flu shots every year.

6. Eat healthy. In order to maintain an optimally functioning immune system, it is also important to eat a healthy diet. There are many different dietary recommendations out there, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid junk food (sodas, chips, candy, pre-packaged food and fast food), and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, in addition to whole grains, and healthy fats (e.g olive oil) and protein (eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, and lean meats).

7. Minimize your stress level. The immune system can be affected by stress. Some stress is inevitable, but intense prolonged stress can lead to sickness. It is important to find healthy means of coping with stress such as relaxation or calming exercises. Prayer, meditation, journaling, or talking with friends, family, or a counselor are all ways to help deal with stress. Acupuncture and massage also help alleviate the negative affects of stress. If you have anxiety, depression, or other condition that interferes with your normal functioning, then seek out a mental health practitioner or medical provider.