girl with allergies

Cold, Flu, or Allergies: Can You Tell the Difference?

April 27, 2016 at 4:27 pm

By Kristin Stankus, digital community and social media specialist

The weather is getting warmer and summer is within reach. Although spring is upon us, many are still suffering from the flu. Flu season generally runs from November to March, but according to the CDC the season started later than usual this year than in the previous three seasons and flu activity has remained elevated longer than usual.

Stanford Blood Center (SBC) is always in need of blood products to supply local hospitals. However, one of SBC’s eligibility requirements for donating blood is that potential donors are free of cold and flu symptoms — those with allergies can still donate. But with many not sure if they are suffering from the flu, a cold, or allergies, it can be a difficult time of year for SBC as appointments are cancelled because of possible illness.

The problem is that the flu, a cold and allergies all affect the respiratory system and cause similar symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, a sore throat, and difficulty breathing. There are some general rules of thumb though when determining whether you are suffering from the flu or allergies. For example, allergies generally cause itchy eyes and nose, not common to the cold or flu. Additionally, the flu will often be accompanied by a fever, whereas allergies are not. The best thing to do if you are unsure what ails you is call your doctor for guidance and ask whether you should cancel your appointment to donate blood and, regardless of the reason, if you are not feeling well on the day of donation, please do not donate.

If it does turn out you do have a cold or the flu and are unable to donate, please consider having a friend or family member come in to donate in your place. Just one donation could save up to three lives.

Make your appointment today at For more information on eligibility requirements, please visit