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Fall cold or fall allergies? It could be either

sneezer September 23, 1996
Web posted at: 9:25 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Have you noticed in the last couple of weeks that you just can't stop sneezing? An autumn episode of sniffles and sneezing could be just a cold, or it could be allergies.

"If you're allergic, what gives it away is that the symptoms last a long time," said Dr. Dennis Spangler of the Atlanta Allergy Clinic. "A cold will last maybe a week or two, and resolves itself. It will not be persistent, it will not be recurrent."

Although most people with allergies have more trouble in the spring, some only suffer in the fall. The main culprit is ragweed, a yellow-flowering weed often seen growing in agricultural areas or along highways.

ragweed

"Ragweed causes just as much trouble as tree pollens and grass pollens do, but it's a much briefer season, it's about five weeks total," Spangler said.

Almost no place in the United States is ragweed-free, but some areas have more than others. It is the most prevalent in the Midwest and central United States, and less so along the West Coast.

Meanwhile, in the East, mold may pose a bigger problem than ragweed this year, because of "all the hurricanes and flooding that we've had," said Spangler. The only thing that will kill mold is a hard frost.

mold

If you have allergies, you don't have to live in misery. There have been a number of advances in treatment during the last ten years. The first place to start: over-the-counter remedies.

However, Spangler advises against over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays. "They can aggravate symptoms," he said. "But the antihistamines, there are a number of good effective antihistamines that have gone over-the-counter over the last few years that can work."

If OTC medications are no longer effective, or if you have to use them all the time, or you can't tolerate the side effects, you may need to see a doctor for relief.

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