ATLANTA -- If you've noticed a few empty desks at school and work over the last two weeks, you're not alone. A double whammy of high pollen and cold viruses has patients pouring into local doctors' offices.
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"We're seeing a lot of viruses now in children because they're headed back to school," Dr. Fineman with the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma clinic said. "They're in a closer environment and sharing each other's germs, so to speak."
The Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic reports pollen peaked this week at 424. That's an unusual count for August. It includes a lot of tree pollen. Cedar elm makes up the largest percentage. Usually tree pollen only reaches such high counts during the spring.
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Ragweed is also included in the count. One ragweed plant can pack up to one billion pollen grains, and they are in full bloom in metro Atlanta right now. That's normal for this time of year, but the numbers don't usually peak until September.
Even doctors say it's hard to tell the difference between cold and allergies because so many of the symptoms overlap. There are two big tells: (1) duration: colds will end after 5-10 days while allergies will come and go; and (2) the feeling of being run down and body aches. Dr. Fineman says that feeling achy any fever is a sure sign you're fighting a virus.