Dr. Robert Rogers highlights the difference between spring allergies and coronavirus symptoms

By Dr. Robert Rogers

Originally published in the Star-Telegram. Find the original here.

If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, health reporters in North Texas would be focused on allergies now, as we have entered the spring pollen season.

The beauty of the emerging leaves on the trees, the greening of grass and the appearance of flowers is accompanied by prodigious amounts of tree and grass pollen. Also, because many of us are spending more time at home and are looking for activities, people will be spending more time outside than usual, and thus be exposed to more pollen.

Cough is one of the most telling symptoms of COVID-19, and cough is also very common for those with allergies and asthma. So it’s more important than ever for those with allergies to keep their symptoms under control.

One of our patients said: “It’s a bad time to have allergies because every time you cough, someone looks at you scared!”

So, if you have allergies, how can you distinguish between allergy and COVID-19? First, although many call their allergies “hay fever”, allergy never causes a fever. Never.

If you have a dry cough and a fever, don’t blame your allergies. Talk with your doctor to see if you need to be evaluated for COVID-19.

The symptoms of allergy that are not commonly described in patients with COVID-19 include sneezing, itching of the eyes, ears, or nose, and nasal stuffiness. If there is no fever with these symptoms, they are likely due to seasonal allergies.

As mentioned, cough is common to both COVID-19 and allergy and/or asthma, so that complaint is a little trickier. Nasal allergies can trigger coughing due to postnasal drainage, and asthma causes coughing through irritation of the bronchial tubes. Again, if there is no fever, there is less concern about COVID-19.

People with mild-to-moderate nasal allergies can typically control their symptoms well by using safe, inexpensive medicines (non-sedating antihistamines and nasal cortisone sprays) that are available without a prescription. Those who have asthma will need help from a physician, as there are no effective asthma medicines in the over-the-counter market.

With stay-at-home orders in place, many people are hesitant to call their doctors because they are worried about going to a clinic where people might be sick. Many doctors now have the ability to do telemedicine visits through a smartphone, tablet, or computer. There is no need to suffer in silence – call for help!

I have been an allergist in Fort Worth for 36 years. It has never been this quiet in our office in the spring, and I suspect this is true for all allergists. If you are having trouble with your allergies, call your primary care physician or an allergist.

We are ready to help.

Dr. Robert Rogers is a Fort Worth allergist and former president of the Tarrant County Medical Society.

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