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Many Often Confuse Cold Symptoms With Allergies

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It can be hard for people to know whether they are having trouble with allergies, a cold virus or a non-allergic reaction to certain irritants. Some people are dealing with all three, so it is important for patients to know what the source of the problem is for them to find effective relief.

For Barbara Summerlin, autumn's crisp cool breezes mean a runny nose and sneezes.

"Fall is a big problem for me," she said.

It is the peak season for mold. It grows in moist areas of the home or almost anywhere outdoors.

"Raking up leaves can be a big factor," said allergist Dr. Karen Dunn.

Fall allergens may not be in a house or even close to a house, but the pollen from plants like ragweed can be blown from miles away.

Allergist Dr. Karen Dunn helped Summerlin identify her allergies and find relief with oral medications or injections, but rhinitis is not always due to allergies.

"Rhinitis is the fancy way to say, runny nose, congestion, sneezing. And just as there is allergic rhinitis, so can you have non-allergic rhinitis," Dunn said.

Health officials said paint, ammonia and strong odors are common irritants.

"There are many things that serve as respiratory irritants -- large particles, cigarette smoke, odors, even change in weather and change in barometric pressure," Dunn said.

Many allergies are seasonal while most environmental irritants remain all year long, but they may seem worse when coupled with seasonal allergies.

Some people confuse cold symptoms with an allergy. Colds are the result of a virus. They last 3 to 10 days. Nasal congestion from a cold is typically discolored. Allergy symptoms last much longer. A runny nose from an allergy is clear.

It is important to know the difference so patients can get the right medication to treat the symptoms.


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