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Cough, runny nose, sore throat: Allergies or cold?

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – It’s that time of year when area residents start coughing and sneezing and complaining about sore throats, but is it allergies or a virus? There are many similarities that make it difficult to tell the difference.

“A virus or sinus infection is typically going to act a little different. You’re going to potentially have a fever or chills,” said Col. Kirk Waibel at Brooke Army Medical Center.

What you’re blowing out of your nose can help determine whether it’s a virus or infection, as opposed to allergies.

“If you have a fever or snot that’s not clear, we worry that you would have a sinus infection or a viral infection ,” Waibel told KTSA News.

If you’ve lived in the San Antonio area for awhile, you know that it’s a hotbed for allergies. Windy days like those we’ve had with the recent cold fronts are the worst for allergy sufferers, and Col. Waibel reminds us that mountain cedar season is right around the corner.

“That’s going to be your worst problem from November to January because the wind is picking up the pollen and blowing it around everywhere,” said Waibel.

He recommends that allergy sufferers limit their time outdoors and keep the windows closed. If you work outdoors, change clothes when you get home and wash them to avoid spreading pollen inside. Outdoor pets can also bring pollen indoors and activate your allergies, especially if they sleep in your bedroom.

If you want to find out if you’re allergic, you can take a skin prick test at the doctor’s office.

“After the test is placed, which takes about 10 seconds, we wait 15 minutes for the results. If the cedar allergy test shows a reaction much like a mosquito bite, that indicates a likely allergy,” said Waibel.

Mountain cedar allergy is commonly referred to as “Cedar Fever,” but a fever or chills are very uncommon.

Over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants may help control symptoms. Nasal irrigation is a drug-free remedy that can be used to wash out the allergens and excess mucus. Doctors can also prescribe oral or nasal corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.

“Most patients find relief with allergy medication,” said Waibel. “Some patients who continue to suffer from mountain cedar allergy despite allergy medication may benefit from allergy shots to help control allergy symptoms.”

In San Antonio, mountain cedar leads into the spring oak and elm season, followed by the summer grasses and fall ragweed.

“On top of that, we have a large amount of mold and some patients are affected by indoor allergens, too,” said Waibel.


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