News 8 On Call: Fall allergies


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) – News 8 is on call for you. Have a sore throat, stuffy or runny nose? It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re coming down with a cold.

Cold-like symptoms could be something else entirely. You could be dealing with an allergy. Tis the season for fall allergies.

Pulmonologist Dr. Michael McNamee, with Hospital of Central Connecticut explains, “We’re in the season which we recognize as the peak season for environmental allergens such as ragweed, pollen, and so we often expect to an increase number of patients with hospitalization or even just exacerbations that need extra treatment.”

What triggers fall allergies?

He answers, “Fall allergies are triggered by environmental allergens like leaves that are falling, mold, ragweed, pollen, things that are very difficult for patients to avoid in their everyday life.”

How do you lower exposure?

“People are used to reducing their exposure to allergens indoors by getting rid of carpeting and by covering mattresses. Outdoors is much more difficult. So what we rely on is the patients’ being faithful to their medications. Using medications that will prevent them from having exacerbations even when they are exposed,” said McNamee.

What’s the difference between a cold and an allergy?

Dr. McNamee says, “The symptoms can be very similar with sore throat, stuffy nose, runny nose, headaches and you can get all of these with either. So with an initial episode it might be difficult to separate an allergic reaction from a cold. We can try to differentiate by how the episode responds to medication and also we understand a lot when see if the episode is recurrent. If it’s recurrent and persistent over a long period of time it’s much more likely to be an allergy.

What treatments are available?

“We have a number of medications that can be used,” says Dr. McNamee, “There are steroid preparations as nasal sprays which we use very frequently, we use non-sedating antihistamines so that patients can get some relief without being drowsy. And we have a whole variety, including medications that can be injected repeatedly.”

Dr. McNamee says there’s also the so-called peak week which generally falls around the third week of September. Patients with severe asthma are especially affected by the high levels of pollen, ragweed and mold. It can make their asthma difficult to control and can be fatal.

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