Originally created 09/24/98

The sneezing season



Heather and Katie Linney may be 12-year-old identical twins, but they take the fall differently. Heather wheezes. Katie breaks out in hives.

"I know, it's unusual because they're identical," said their mother, Jewel. "I guess they're not exactly alike."

The difference also hits home inside the pediatric allergy clinic at Medical College of Georgia. Heather has to step inside a little room and roll up her right sleeve for a weekly allergy shot; Katie stands out in the hallway and tries not to look.

While spring allergies may affect more people, those allergic to weeds and dust get their own misery come fall. And unlike spring allergies, fall allergies may actually be worse because they are followed by the flu season in winter, doctors said.This year appears to be as bad as ever for those with fall allergies. The drought this summer may have killed lawns and shrubs, but it didn't kill the fall tormentors, doctors said.

"Weeds are some of the most resistant of plants," said Betty Wray, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Medical College of Georgia. "In fact, the weeds are taking over in places (where the grass died). I don't expect any relief."

Allergy sufferers continue to file in as usual, though the drought may have delayed the season a little, which usually begins in mid-August and begins to taper off in mid-October, said Augusta allergist Terrence Cook.

"There was a drought early, but then the rains came," Dr. Cook said. "Just the rains we had in August were enough to keep things bursting forward."

This year hasn't been as bad for Heather, who has suffered allergies for six years but began taking allergy shots this year to try and desensitize her to the evil weeds. Still, her mom is expecting her to average about a cold a month, which then goes through the whole family.

"They share everything," she joked.

Battling off the weed pollen through the late fall into winter can leave people vulnerable to the dust and indoor allergens they'll run into as winter forces them inside, Dr. Wray said.

"My theory is they're primed by the weeds" and set up for the dust mites, she said.

"Winter and the infection season is right around the corner, and that could be a problem," Dr. Cook said.

Infection, in fact, is something that people who think they have allergies should watch out for. If your sniffling is accompanied by fever and your nasal discharge turns green or yellow, what you have may not be allergies, Dr. Cook said.

It may be a sinus infection that needs to be seen by a doctor and treated with antibiotics, Dr. Cook said.And what many times people take for a lingering cold in the winter could also be a sinus infection, Dr. Cook said. Symptoms that last more than a week call for treatment, Dr. Cook said."You shouldn't let a 'cold' linger for weeks and months at a time," he said.