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Diagnosis: Allergies or a Cold?

Monday, October 31, 2011 - 10:31am

We're getting to the tail end of the fall allergy season, and doctors say the ragweed and mold are particularly bad this year. If you found yourself suffering from allergies for the first time, you're not alone.

Doctors also warn that all that sniffling and sneezing could be the result of something else, and if you don't get it checked out, you might be suffering for a long time. 32-year-old Lorelle Langhorne's headaches were soon followed by constant congestion, runny nose, and sneezing.

"I started taking multi-vitamins and all this stuff just to be healthier overall and it wasn't really having a huge effect," she says.

Langhorne was suffering from allergies for the first time ever.

"I was a little surprised. I seemed like I would have been told earlier or had major symptoms or something at an earlier age," she says.

Doctors say developing allergies as you age isn't that unusual, especially when you move to a new city. Internist Dr. Ann Marie Gordon says age plays a role too. That's because as you get older, your immune system changes and some people may react to allergens that never bothered them before, or they may react more severely to what was once a mild allergy. Just because you're having allergy symptoms doesn't mean you’re allergic.

Dr. Gordon says it could be something called an irritant reaction, a condition that will often have similar symptoms to an allergy but is caused by something different.

"It's more of an irritation but via a different mechanism. So why is that important? The treatment," she says.

Allergy medications won't work for an irritant reaction, leaving a lot of people suffering. Gordon says that's why it's important to see your doctor if you're exhibiting any type of allergy or respiratory symptoms that won't go away on their own or get worse over time. Lorelle Langhorne is now on medication to control her allergies.

"I feel a little better and I can breathe a little better," she says.
 

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