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Spring allergy symptoms may mimic those of coronavirus – so how do we tell them apart? An allergist weighs in.

Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

“Typically with coronavirus, the symptoms will last for a couple weeks. They can sometimes be lingering, but typically not like allergies where they can be months on end; a whole season.”

Dr. Sandra Hong,

Saturday is the first day of Spring

If you suffer from allergies, you probably don’t need a calendar to tell you that.

** Cue the itchy eyes, runny nose, and coughing **

Spring Oprah GIF by morrisjenkins - Find & Share on GIPHY

Allergy symptoms are annoying enough in the best of times and this year, in the grips of a global pandemic, ABSOLUTELY No One wants to be THAT person standing in the corner sneezing and coughing.

Public image aside, the symptoms for seasonal allergies look a lot like the symptoms for the coronavirus, and the similarities are stressing people out.

Think you’re alone in your panicked, late night WebMD symptom searches?

Think again!

A simple scroll through Twitter will provide you with so much solidarity.

Take a look:

@Tradledee85 tweeting, “Welcome to the second season of ‘Is it allergies or COVID?”‘

@JordanMcMeans writing, “Me every time I so much as sniffle in 2021: I NEED A COVID TEST RIGHT THIS INSTANT I HAVE THE PLAGUE”.

@NikkiBrinksCO weighing in with, “I got to play annual bronchitis or COVID last week, luckily bronchitis won”.

Cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue and loss of taste and smell are all coronavirus symptoms, but according to the Cleveland Clinic they’re also common for allergy sufferers.

It’s true, seasonal allergies and COVID-19 do have several overlapping symptoms but, according to Cleveland Clinic allergist, Sandra Hong, MD, there are a couple of telltale signs that you’re not suffering from allergies.

“With coronavirus symptoms, very frequently, they’ll come on with fevers,” she said. “If you have a fever, it’s not going to be allergies. If you have diarrhea, that’s also not allergies. That’s something completely different.”

Dr. Hong said another good way to decipher between the two is itching. 

If your eyes, nose, throat and ears are itching like crazy, it’s likely allergies.

How long you suffer is also a clue.

“Typically with coronavirus, the symptoms will last for a couple weeks,” said Dr. Hong. “They can sometimes be lingering, but typically not like allergies where they can be months on end; a whole season.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted out this handy chart to help you compare your symptoms.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, millions of people suffer from seasonal allergies each year.

Whether it’s trees, grass or ragweed causing allergy symptoms there are ways to get ahead of your allergies before symptoms set in and that, according to immunologist Dr. Flavia Hoyte, is key.

“Here we go with our next several months of pollen season” says Dr. Hoyte, “The idea there is to kind of get ahead of the inflammation, not let the inflammation start up so that you’re not kind of chasing your tail throughout the season.”

It’s especially important to protect your lungs now, during the pandemic.

The good news, Dr. Hoyte says allergies don’t appear to put a person at higher risk for more severe Covid-19.

But, she says, when your airways are inflamed, you’re less able to clear viruses.

“The lower the inflammation in the airway, the better the airway can function and part of that function is really clearing anything that comes into the nose and needs to get pushed back out” explains Dr. Hoyte.

Dr. Hoyte says to call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

“If you have any concerns, any new symptoms, any symptoms that feel weird, different, more severe than normal certainly we can help guide you through understanding is this allergies or is this possibly Covid-19” says Dr. Hoyte.

Doctor Hoyte says it’s important to know and avoid the allergens that trigger your allergic reaction. 

That may seem like a tall task.

But there are things you can do to keep spring allergies at bay! 

5 doctor recommended ways to minimize your allergy suffering this spring:  

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

  1. Take allergy medication before symptoms start. The best way to keep spring allergies at bay is by taking over-the-counter allergy medication before the season and your symptoms get into full swing.  Keep allergies away by taking your medicine regularly throughout the spring season. To keep allergens from camping out in your sinuses, Dr. Hong recommends using a saline spray. She says “If you actually rinse out the pollens once you’ve come into your home, they’re not going to sit in there all night long causing allergy symptoms.”
  1. Avoid outside activities in the morning. Because flowering plants react to sunlight, pollen counts are typically the highest in the morning. By avoiding outside activity in the morning, you can reduce your exposure to allergy-triggering pollen. 
  1. Keep an eye on pollen counts and your windows closed. When the warmer weather hits, it’s tempting to open your windows and let in the fresh spring air. But before you do, be sure to keep an eye on pollen counts.  If pollen counts are high, keep your windows and doors closed. 
  1. Shower before climbing into bed to avoid spreading allergens all over your sheets and pillows. 
  1. Consider professional allergy testing. If you’ve tried over-the-counter medicine and other strategies but still suffer each year from spring allergies, it may be time for a professional allergy test. These tests can pinpoint the allergens most troublesome to you, enabling better treatment. 

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