Feel Like You're Coming Down With a Cold or the Flu? It Could Be Allergies

Feeling like you're coming down with a cold, maybe the flu? It could be an allergy.

If so, you have plenty of company in your misery.

Local allergy clinics are busy these days. With a quick glance at the pollen count the doctors can tell you why. Their patients can tell you how it feels.

"You get a nasal drip," says Rhonda McGinn who's about to get an allergy shot at Allergy and Asthma Associates in Sparks. "It causes a sore throat. You can hear the scratch in my throat."

McGinn can tell you all about allergies. She's been getting these shots for six years now.

Her most serious allergy is sage. It seems exposure to our state flower even gives her a serious skin rash, something she soon discovered after moving here.

This isn't quite the season for sage pollen yet, but "it's also a bad time for juniper and I think that's one of the other minor allergies I have," says McGinn who adds she started feeling the effects last month.

It's juniper's turn on the allergy calendar and juniper is very common in this area.

"People use it as a decorative plant and it's used in parks, says Dr. Leonard Shapiro of Allergy and Asthma Associates. "It produces a lot of pollen and right now the pollen counts are high."

It's not that a juniper allergy is worse than any other, but the plant itself is everywhere, seemingly in every other yard in northern Nevada. On a windy day the smoke-like pollen can waft away in the wind and make a lot of people miserable.

That's how it happens. All plants produce pollen. Only some create the problem.

"Plants that are insect pollinated are the plants that you see with beautiful flowers and they don't need the wind," says Dr. Shapiro. "They don't cause allergies. It's the wind pollinated plants that cause allergies."

It's how some plants reproduce. We just get in the way.

People like Rhonda McGinn just learn to live with the problem.

"I just look at the calendar and say 'OK, when's the next shot.'"

Some, however, eventually escape.

"Eventually if someone stays with the allergy shots eventually it sends the immune system down a different pathway, a non-allergic pathway," says Dr. Shapiro. "So after about four or five years we can stop the shots and the people are often symptom free and don't need shots."

Unfortunately, as Rhonda McGinn can testify, there are no guarantees.

"Everyone is different," says Dr. Shapiro.

In the meantime, if you're feeling poorly these days, maybe you should blame your landscaper and the greenery in your front yard.


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