Seasonal allergies are dusting up across the south as the weather warms up, but the cold season is experiencing a last minute flare-up, posing a problem for allergy sufferers.
Ochsner Health System staff physician with the allergy, asthma and immunology department Dr. Cathryn Hassett said telling the difference between a cold and seasonal allergies can be difficult.
“There are a lot of similar symptoms between cold and allergies,” Hassett said. “With both of them you can have a runny nose and sneezing. The difference with an allergy is that it tends to occur during certain times of year, and it tends to be more associated with itchy, watery eyes and sneezing. With a cold you’re going to get congestion and a runny nose, and it’s more short lived.”
While there is no cure for allergies, Hassett said the seasonal nature makes some times of the year worse than others for allergy sufferers.
Tree pollen is high right now as the days warm up, Hassett said, causing problems for people allergic to pollen.
Hassett said patients run the risk of taking the wrong medication if they mistake allergies for a cold or vice versa.
“The danger is self medicating – just using over-the-counter medications and not knowing what the underlying cause is,” she said. “A lot of medications are very similar.”
One common mistake is taking too much cold medication for allergies since cold medicines tend to contain extra medicine, Hassett said.
“Some of the medications have an antihistamine, a decongestant and a pain reliever, and that will give you relief from multiple things from allergy or cold,” she said. “However, it can be overkill if it’s just an allergy. In that case, you want to use more specific medications and avoidance measures.”