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Fall Allergies in PA: Nothing To Sneeze At

September 12, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Cooler weather, fall colors... and ragweed. For allergy and asthma sufferers, this time of year in Pennsylvania is anything but enjoyable.

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

"So, 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."

Dr. Portnoy says this time of year can be tricky for people trying to determine what their symptoms really indicate, 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."

The National Wildlife Federation has named Pennsylvania as a state high at risk for more severe fall allergies because of climate change. Dr. Portnoy says pollen counts have been higher nationwide during the last decade as carbon dioxide levels have risen, because certain plants, including ragweed, thrive on those higher CO2 levels.

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

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA