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COVID-19 and Allergies

COVID-19 and Allergies

How do I know if I have allergies or COVID-19? Is it still important to treat allergies during a global pandemic?

With the arrival of allergy season during a global pandemic, it is tempting to ignore the potential for worsened allergies. Unfortunately, poorly controlling your allergies can affect your quality of life and potentially cause decreased work and school performance. Many symptoms associated with allergies can be mistaken for COVID-19. This can lead to unnecessary testing, removal from work or school and quarantine while awaiting negative test results. Rubbing an itchy runny nose or itchy eyes has the possibility of increasing the chance of transmitting COVID-19 if already infected, or possibly increasing the chances of becoming infected.

Allergies and COVID-19 can produce similar symptoms, but there are important differences. Allergies typically cause sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Both COVID-19 and allergies can cause coughing, headache, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose and nasal congestion. Shortness of breath in relationship to asthma can be caused by allergies; however, shortness of breath can have other causes including COVID-19. Fever, chills, muscle and body aches, a new loss of taste and smell, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (not associated with food allergies) are almost always unrelated to allergies and raise the strong possibility of COVID-19. Symptoms vary individually, and patients can have COVID-19 and allergies at the same time.

Now is the time to start seasonal allergic medications including antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids. Examples include Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin, Flonase and Nasacort. For some people, working from home due to the pandemic may mean increased exposure to dogs, cats and other allergens. Environmental control should be continued and maximized. If your symptoms do not improve, or if you would like to reduce the need for medications by learning the cause of the allergies, see an allergist for additional evaluation. Testing can find the cause of the allergies and then environmental alterations or immunotherapy can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

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