Many illnesses can be tricky to self-diagnose because they share similar signs and symptoms. Often, the symptoms are mild and can be treated easily, but in some cases, they can lead to life-threatening situations. It’s always important to seek help from a doctor if you have uncertainties or suspect something larger at play.
Here are a couple of conditions that are often mistaken for each other, and we’ll show you how to tell them apart.
Intolerance VS Allergies
Food allergies and food intolerance are often used interchangeably, but they’re totally different conditions. While allergies cause a serious reaction that involves an immune response, intolerance doesn’t affect your immune system.
Food intolerance symptoms are usually gut-related, and its effects are not as serious as allergic reactions. In some cases, consuming small amounts of the offending food may not even affect a person who’s intolerant to it. However, with an allergy, the immune system reaction affects numerous organs, and this can be severe or even life-threatening.
A good example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance. With this condition, sufferers lack the enzyme lactase that’s responsible for digesting lactose, a substance present in dairy foods. Due to the missing enzyme, they may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and nausea, when consuming dairy. Another example of a food intolerance is irritable bowel syndrome.
On the other hand, an allergy is more severe. An allergic reaction may result in an over-release of chemicals, which can lead to an anaphylactic shock. People who experience an anaphylactic shock need to be treated immediately and can die within minutes if they eat a small amount of the offending food. The most common foods that are associated with most allergies include nuts, shellfish or foods containing sulfites.
If you suspect either one, you should see a doctor to find out which one it is you’re suffering from. A food allergy may lead to a life-threatening reaction, and so, it’s important to learn how to manage it when it happens.
Headache VS Migraine
Headaches are probably one of the most common ailments that we experience in our daily lives; they can be mild to moderately severe and can happen several times in a week. In cases where it gets too severe, have you thought about whether you’re experiencing a migraine?
A good example of a common type of headache is a tension headache, which lasts for about 20 minutes up to two hours. They produce a dull, squeezing pain on both sides of your head, and may cause shoulder or neck aches. Tension headaches may be triggered by fatigue, emotional stress, or muscles or joint problems.
Tension headaches can be treated by pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) which can be found over-the counter in most pharmacies. Sometimes, a heating pad, warm showers or a good nap may do the trick.
But when your headache gets so severe that it becomes debilitating and unbearable, you may be experiencing a migraine. How can you tell? Well, if you have some of the below symptoms with your headache, chances are, you’re suffering from a migraine.
- Temporary vision loss
- Seeing spots, lines or flashing lights
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Pain behind an eye, ear or in your temples
- Nausea and vomiting
Migraines range from moderate to severe and may last from four hours up to a couple of days. There are two types of migraines – one with aura, and one without. An aura is a sensory disturbance that a person experiences anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before a migraine attack. They are usually visual disturbances but can also be motor or verbal disturbances; for example, flashes of light, squiggly lines, blind spots or tingling in your hand or face.
There are medications designed to treat migraines; pain-relieving medications are taken during an attack to stop symptoms while preventative medications are taken daily to prevent or reduce the frequency of future migraine attacks. However, your treatment plan and recommended medications depend on how severe or frequent the migraine is, as well as any other conditions you may have. Talk with your doctor to find out the best way to treat a migraine.
Cold VS Flu
Both the cold and flu have overlapping symptoms, which can make it hard to tell them apart. They are, however, pretty different.
A common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection that is usually mild and can go away without needing medications. It’s common to experience runny nose, headache, sneezing, cough or sore throat with a cold.
The flu, on the other hand, is caused the influenza virus and at times, can be quite serious. Young children, those 65 years or older, or people with chronic conditions, can be severely affected by the flu, which may result in hospitalisation and at times, even death. The flu typically lasts for about five to seven days, and causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache and muscle aches.
With a common cold, you can relieve your symptoms by resting, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter cold medications. The same treatment may be appropriate for the flu, but in some cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent serious complications.
You can also protect yourself from the influenza virus and prevent the flu by going for a vaccination. It’s best to get a shot before the flu seasons starts, and this typically occurs from April to June and towards the end of the year.
Stomach flu VS food poisoning
Again, these two conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as stomach pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea. If your stomach is going crazy and you’re wondering if you caught the flu bug or ate something bad, here’s how you can tell.
The stomach flu is highly contagious, meaning it can spread quickly. Those who carry the virus can start spreading it the moment symptoms start showing, and even for the first few days after they get better. Food poisoning usually occurs within one to eight hours of eating the contaminated food, but with stomach flu, symptoms won’t show until one to two days of catching the virus.
The best way to find out the cause is to look at your recent history. If you’ve eaten something in the last eight hours, think about whether it was a little uncooked or left out too long. Also check if others you’ve eaten with are having the same symptoms. If all that is true, then chances are, you’re having food poisoning.
The stomach flu is caused by a virus, whereas food poisoning can be attributed to either a virus, bacteria or parasite. Most of the time, treatment for both conditions are the same, where the doctor will recommend that you drink lots of fluids and eat bland foods. However, knowing which one it is can help your doctor prescribe the right medicine. For example, if you’re having stomach flu, antibiotics only work against bacteria and won’t resolve your symptoms at all.