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Fall Allergies: Nothing To Sneeze At

September 9, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Cooler weather, fall colors - and ragweed. For allergy and asthma sufferers, this time of year is anything but enjoyable.

More over-the-counter and prescription medications are available today to help people breathe easier, says Dr. Jay Portnoy, an allergy and asthma specialist with Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. However, he says, some people need multiple medications because allergy seasons are growing longer and becoming more intense. And September is expected to become more a problem in the coming weeks as mold and dust mites are added to the mix.

"People who have asthma may be doing OK right now, but it's going to start getting worse as the month progresses. So they need to be vigilant. The last week of September is the peak of the asthma season. We have more admissions to the hospital on that week than any other week of the year."

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 36 million people suffer from seasonal allergies. The primary culprit of fall allergies is ragweed pollen. Pollen counts have been higher nationwide during the last decade, Portnoy says, as carbon dioxide levels have risen because certain plants, including ragweed, thrive on those higher levels.

This time of year can be tricky for people determining what their symptoms really indicate, Portnoy says, because September is also peak season for the common cold.

"Those are associated with low-grade fever, sore throat, more of a pain type of thing as opposed to the sneezy, itchy type of thing. Problem is that we have ragweed and colds at the same time. So in many cases people have both, and that's a double whammy."

Portnoy says effective management with medicines before symptoms begin is key to surviving seasonal allergies.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO