Health Matters

AHH-CHOO! May Brings More Than Flowers

That first sneeze and sniffle prompts you to reach for a tissue. The second and third—perhaps fourth and fifth—may send you to the medicine chest for relief. But, is it a cold? Or is it a spring allergy?
Sorting that out is a challenge, says UR Medicine primary care physician Dr. Louis J. Papa. It’s especially tricky at this time of year, when colds are common and long-awaited blooms can be bothersome.
man coughing and sneezing
Here are some symptom-sorting facts:
  • It’s probably a cold if your runny nose, coughing and sore throat come on quickly, followed by an icky, achy feeling. Colds are caused by a virus, which you catch from other people. Cold symptoms usually subside after seven to 10 days. If they linger longer, or get worse rather than better, consider calling your doctor.
  • It’s probably an allergy if your symptoms—sneezing along with itchy eyes and nose—are more predictable and they wax and wane a bit. You don’t catch allergies from other people. They’re triggered by something in your environment, like pollen, pet dander or dust, and sometimes specific foods. Allergy symptoms can last for weeks or months at a time, depending on what’s in bloom and in the air. And allergies can develop at any age.
Weather watchers have predicted that allergy sufferers may set sneeze-count records this year. After a long, harsh winter, spring has exploded on us, so the allergy season is off to a roaring start.
Whether it’s a cold or allergies, over-the-counter medications can be your first step to quell symptoms. These tend to work well for most people. When choosing medications, read labels carefully and be aware that some contain ingredients that can make you sleepy. While they may be effective, the drowsiness they bring may impact your functioning during the day. If you do a lot of driving or work with heavy equipment, be safe and choose the non-drowsy medications.
Colds and allergies usually pass with time. But, if medicines aren’t effective, the symptoms worsen and you start wheezing or have difficulty breathing, call your doctor. These may be signs of asthma or a respiratory infection.
If you need a doctor, call (585) 784-8891. For help with serious allergies or asthma, contact the Mary Parkes Asthma Center at (585) 486-0147.
Louis Papa, M.D.
Louis J. Papa, M.D., is a board-certified internal medicine specialist with UR Medicine Primary Care and a regular panelist on WXXI TV’s “Second Opinion.”
Lori Barrette | 5/12/2014 | 0 comments


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Welcome to Health Matters, a blog aimed at keeping you and your family healthy. We offer advice from URMC experts on timely topics, as well as insight into breaking news and medical research. Visit us weekly for updates and invite your family and friends to check us out. If you have a topic you’d like to see us cover, please send a note to Lori Barrette.


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Though health advice offered here is provided by experts, there is no substitute for the personal care your own provider can offer. If you have medical questions or concerns, please contact your physician.

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