Is it the coronavirus or seasonal allergies?
As our city, state, nation, and the world bands together to put a stop to the spread of the coronavirus, many are looking for additional information about symptoms. In many parts of the U.S., it's the beginning of allergy season, which can add confusion to the mix. Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies will soon begin experiencing a running nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing galore. People experience these symptoms as a result of the spread of pollen, whether from trees, grass, plants, or weeds. The tree pollen usually starts first with the others joining in as the year progresses.
This year's allergy season is a bit complicated as cases of coronavirus continue to be reported in the U.S. This may cause some unnecessary panic as people experiencing seasonal allergy (or cold) symptoms may confuse those with symptoms related to coronavirus. We've outlined some differences below to help guide you through this uncertain time. We'd also like to point out that it's always best to check with your doctor before taking any action. You can also visit the Texas Department of State Health Services for more information on what to do if you are sick.
It's important to take the coronavirus seriously but also to avoid panic. If you are experiencing the minor symptoms we outlined above, consider the following guidance. In short, if you are only experiencing itchy eyes and a runny nose, you likely have allergies or even a basic cold. Coronavirus symptoms tend to impact your entire body and especially the lower respiratory tract. That means you may not have a runny nose, but might experience sore throat, a cough, a fever or shortness of breath. The biggest indicator is your temperature. Seasonal allergies should not cause a fever, so if you have one, get in touch with your doctor just to be safe.
While initial symptoms of both allergies and coronavirus may look similar, symptoms that persist should be communicated to your doctor. This is especially true if you are part of an at-risk group that has a pre-existing condition like heart disease or diabetes or asthma and other lung-related illnesses. Seasonal allergies and the common cold will resolve themselves, but cases of the coronavirus may continue to get worse. Keep track of how you’re feeling — and how long your symptoms are lasting for to be sure.
If your symptoms turn out to be minor and can be attributed to seasonal allergies, there are some ways to prevent or lessen symptoms.
Yep, taking a quick shower after spending time outside or even right before bed can go a long way in keeping pollen at bay. We don’t realize how even a quick jaunt around town can expose us to a lot of pollen that then sticks to our clothes, hair, and skin. We track that back into the house with us and can spread it on our bedding any everywhere else we’re spending a lot of time. Once it’s adhered to all these fabrics and well-tread places in our home, we end up breathing it all the time.
Reducing your exposure to allergens is a surefire way to keep the sneezing at bay and also avoid having to take medications that may leave you drowsy all day long. That means staying inside during windy or extra-dry spells as these conditions are favorable to spreading pollen around. Instead, opt to spend more time outside after it has rained, which is when pollen levels may be lower.
Keep your home allergen-free
Just as with your vehicle, your home furnace and air conditioning units likely have filters that need to be changed regularly. It’s important to stay on top of this so both units can be used when allergy season peaks. Rather than opening the windows and letting all these allergens in, you can use the air conditioning system and not stress about the indoor allergen load.
Keeping bed linens clean is another way to avoid allergy symptoms. For starters, avoid air-drying bedding and other laundry outdoors as that can track allergens back in with the fabric. Wash linens in hot water to remove pollen and use protective covers to add an extra layer of defense.
Also notice when your symptoms seem to be at their worse as this may signal a new or different allergy that you may not be aware of. For example, morning allergy sufferers may actually have a sensitivity to feathers or dust mites in the home. Noting these little cues can help you prevent an episode and can guide the preventative measures you take.
Finally, do a deep spring cleaning, especially if you’re particularly sensitive to dust. In addition to cleaning out and dusting closets, cabinets and other spaces, you may want to replace carpet with hardwoods. Carpet is a main culprit for holding dust and other particulates that can trigger allergy symptoms.
Get extra help when you need it
While all of the tips outlined above can be helpful, there are times when they won’t be enough. In these cases, it makes sense to talk with your primary care doctor to see what the best next step is. Some doctors may recommend that you add an antihistamine like Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra to the mix.
Another option may be to use a corticosteroid nasal spray or a decongestant. The key is to work with your doctor to find the right treatment for your unique needs. It’s also important to note that long-term use of decongestants is not recommended, as your body adapts. Over time, symptoms can become worse when a person tries to stop taking the medication.
Many allergy medications are available over the counter and may be the best first option as our health system experiences the stress of growing COVID-19 cases. If your allergies persist for a longer term, it may be beneficial to get referred to a specialist who can provide special allergy medication such as a shot or allergy drops. These allergy immunotherapy techniques help to desensitize your body and build up immune tolerance to the different substances that cause the allergic reaction.
Did you know...that all of Decent’s health plans include free visits with your primary care doctor? Yep. That means ZERO out-of-pocket costs. No charge whatsoever. FREE. Next time you feel like sneezin’, just give your doc a call and schedule an appointment. Don’t have a Decent health plan? Get your free quote today!