published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

ASK A DOCTOR

Q: I moved to Chattanooga from Ohio a few years ago, and it seems that every spring I develop a constant runny nose and recurrent sneeze. Is this a common cold or allergies? Can you recommend treatments, because antihistamines are not helping?

A: Both common colds and allergic rhinitis ("allergies") can cause symptoms such as the ones you described, including runny nose, nasal congestion, sneeze and postnasal drainage. Allergies also are associated with itchy/watery eyes. The fact your symptoms are occurring mostly in the spring suggests possible seasonal allergies. I would recommend allergy skin testing to determine exactly what you are allergic to, although if your symptoms are primarily during the spring, tree pollen is the most likely culprit. Chattanooga has one of the worst tree pollen seasons in the country, annually ranking in the top five to 10 worst cities for spring allergies. Treatments for allergies include antihistamines, prescription nasal sprays and avoidance of allergic triggers. The only potential cure for allergic rhinitis is allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Allergy shots are extremely effective at improving your allergy symptoms while also decreasing your reliance on medications.

-- Dr. Lee Perry, Chattanooga Allergy Clinic; member,

Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com. See this space each week for answers.

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