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Germwatch: Flu Season Ends, Seasonal Allergies Begin

in Culpeper, VA, people are experiencing seasonal allergies
Ostranda Williams, MD, examines a patient at Pediatrics Culpeper.

As you set your clocks ahead and watch the last snow (hopefully) melt, you might also start experiencing some seasonal allergies.

Here in Central Virginia, we’re starting to see the first tree buds and flowers of spring. That means Ostranda Williams, MD, who sees infants through young adults at Pediatrics Culpeper, is seeing patients who are allergic to tree pollen and grasses. They’re coming in with asthma flare-ups and allergy symptoms.

Allergies or Cold?

What’s the difference between seasonal allergies and a cold? If you notice you get cold symptoms around the same time every year, you likely actually have allergies. Allergies, unlike colds, tend to run in families and cause:

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Persistent symptoms that last longer than 7-10 days

Allergies are unlikely to give you a fever.

Does Mucus Color Matter?

The short answer: no.

Your mucus tends to be thin and clear when you’re feeling well. Congestion makes mucus get thicker and turn various shades of yellow, green or brown.

But the color only means that your body is producing white blood cells to fight something off, according to Williams. That something could be a virus or an allergen. So you can’t use your mucus color to diagnose whether you have a cold, allergies or something else.

During the summer, a high pollen count can give your mucus a yellowish tint.

Treating Seasonal Allergies

Often, you can treat allergies with over-the-counter antihistamines. These products offer similar benefits, so finding the right one for you may be a trial-and-error process.

Williams only prescribes something with different active ingredients when patients don’t respond to over-the-counter medications or experience other allergy-related conditions like asthma or eczema.

Struggling With Seasonal Allergies?

Make an appointment with a primary care provider.

He recommends that if you get bad allergies or asthma flare-ups this time every year, start your allergy medication earlier, before you begin having problems.

Is Flu Season Over, Finally?

In February, Williams saw a lot of flu cases as the virus spread through local schools and daycares. Now, although he still sees sporadic cases, it’s “nowhere near what it was a month ago.”

This reflects national flu trends and Virginia Department of Health data. However, as of mid-March, flu activity was still “widespread” in Virginia, according to the CDC.

The bottom line: Flu cases are declining. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get the flu. Williams says:

  • Wash your hands
  • Wipe surfaces down
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow

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