Sniffles, Achiness Could be Signs of Winter Allergies - or the Flu

by Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

With some of Mother Nature's airborne triggers currently reported at high levels across South Texas, there's a good chance that all of that sniffling, wheezing, coughing and sneezing is the result of allergies, but don't count out the flu, either, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Dr. Patricia Dinger with the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of San Antonio says more than likely allergies are the culprit.

"If this happens to you at the same time every year when mountain cedar is high, then very likely this is cedar," Dinger says. "The itching and the sneezing - that itching part of things typically means that this is more of an allergy than an infection."

She says if your symptoms include head and body aches, it's time to consider the flu as the culprit, and schedule a doctor visit to minimize the effects of the virus.

"If you have a fever and chills and just body aches, and typically the body aches and generally feeling just really run down where you can't get out of bed is the flu," she says. 

Dinger says at that point, the recovery clock is ticking.

"If you don't get into the doctor until two or three days later, then there's not going to be really any point in getting the anti-viral medicine - it has to be caught early," Dinger says.

Winter allergy season in Texas usually is accompanied by a decrease in ragweed, but mountain ceder pollen levels continue to remain high with fine pollen dust coating vehicles and buildings across the Hill Country throughout the colder months. 

Indoor allergens also affect more people because of decreased outdoor activity, dry recirculated air and prolonged proximity between family and co-workers.

The Texas Department of State Health Services' latest Influenza Surveillance Activity Report, for mid-January, lists increases in flu infections statewide. The report says while fewer Texans are visiting the doctor for flu treatment, hospitals report a corresponding increase in flu cases confirmed through testing. Two influenza-related pediatric fatalities and two confirmed flu outbreaks also were reported. 

Health officials also are tracking an increase in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a respiratory tract infection that often affects children. Like the flu, RSV is most often transmitted via airborne droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Unlike many bacteria, which die after extended exposure to air or sunlight, flu viruses from an infected person can remain active on surfaces such as office equipment or home furnishings.

Dr. Dinger says hand washing and avoiding facial contact - including touching one's own face - are two effective ways to avoid flu virus transmission.

IMAGE: GETTY

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