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  What's Bugging You this Fall?  

Every autumn, it’s the same old story. The leaves change colors, the temperature drops—and you get a stuffy nose and a massive case of the sneezes.

Cold, flu , and allergies are common in the fall . Telling them apart is tough. But doing so can help you feel better faster.

The Common Cold: Many Causes

Together, Americans suffer 1 billion colds each year. Most strike between late August and early April. That’s when people spend time in school and indoors, close to others who may be infected. You might be the latest victim if you have:

• A stuffy, runny nose

• Sneezing

• A sore throat

• A hacking cough

Cold symptoms can be caused by one of more than 200 different viruses—that’s part of why there is no cure. However, many treatments are available.

Try gargling with warm saltwater to relieve a sore throat. An antihistamine can help a runny nose, while a decongestant can help clear a stuffy one. For your cough, ask your pharmacist to help you choose an over-the-counter antitrussive medication. Be sure to consult your doctor before giving any cold medications to children. Call your doctor if your symptoms last more than two weeks or you have severe pain in your sinuses, the areas behind your nose and eyes. You may have a sinus or ear infection requiring antibiotics.

The Flu: One Virus, Many Symptoms

The influenza virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Signs of the flu include:

• Fatigue and weakness

• High fever

• Severe aches and pains

• Headache

• Cough

Beat the flu with lots of rest, plenty of fluids, and pain relievers to soothe body aches. Get medical help if you are 65 or older, have a chronic medical condition, or are pregnant. Antiviral drugs can prevent pneumonia and other flu complications.  Getting a flu shot in October or November can help you stop the flu before it starts.  Anyone older than 6 months can get vaccinated, but it’s especially recommended for those who are 50 and older, younger than 19, pregnant, or living with a chronic disease or in a nursing home.

Allergies: Something in the Air

Fall allergies are usually a bad reaction to pollen from the ragweed plant. This powdery substance hangs in the air from late August until the first frost. It can cause:

• Itchy or watery eyes

• Stuffy, runny nose

• Cough

• Sneezing

• Sleep problems

Reduce your exposure by showering after going outside and keeping home and car windows closed. Medications, including over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription nasal steroids, also can help. If drugs don’t work, your allergies interfere with your daily life, or you have another condition such as asthma, call your doctor. He or she might recommend a treatment like allergy shots. These are given before allergy season begins to get your body used to ragweed.

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