Leaves are falling and summer is gone with the wind, but autumn brings little relief for many allergy sufferers. Ragweed pollen troubles millions of people with allergies. The pollen may not grow where you live, but it can travel hundreds of miles on the wind. Do not confuse allergic reactions with cold symptoms.

Viruses cause colds while allergies are caused by a person coming into contact with allergens — substances in the environment, like ragweed or mold, that cause an allergic reaction to that person.

Allergy symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the particular allergy. Some common symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and congestion. Allergic symptoms may seem like a cold, but there are differences:

  • Duration:
    • Allergy — Symptoms may last an entire season
    • Cold — Symptoms usually last 3-7 days
  • Fever:
    • Allergy — No
    • Cold — Sometimes
  • Cough:
    • Allergy — Rarely
    • Cold — Often

If your seasonal allergies are generally mild, nasal sprays and oral antihistamines can help manage your symptoms. However, your body may eventually build up tolerance to an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. If OTC treatments will not reduce your symptoms, it may be time to talk with a physician. You may need a prescription or other treatment.

You can also ease allergy symptoms by reducing your exposure to allergens. Patient First suggests these five tips to reduce allergens at home:

  1. Keep windows and doors closed — Restricting the amount of outside air that comes into your home may help those with airborne allergen sensitivities.
  2. Wash bedding and clothes — Frequently wash bedding, clothes and other washable items in hot water to help reduce the amount of dust mites and dander in the home.
  3. Vacuum often — Vacuuming the carpeted areas of your home can help eliminate common allergens. Do not forget to vacuum the drapes and stairs as well.
  4. Change the air filter — Replace the air filter in your heating and cooling unit. Old filters tend to re-circulate allergens in the air. Consider purchasing a special filter designed to reduce allergens in your home’s air.
  5. Take a shower — Shower and change into clean clothes after spending much of the day outside. This will rinse pollen and dust from your skin and hair.

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