Allergies spring into COVID times


CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Grab the tissues and nasal spray because allergy season is in full swing as Spring started Saturday.

April Showers bring May flowers. Well, they definitely bring allergies for people.

Dr. Brittanie West, Family Physician at United Hospital Center

What pollens are the usual triggers for Spring allergies?  

Beginning in March, hay fever occurs — an allergy to pollen or mold — affects 30 to 60 million people in the United States. 

Allergies to pollen are typically caused by Trees, which produce small amounts of pollen that can be carried by the spring breeze. There are eleven types of trees that are common triggers of hay fever in the spring according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Many of these trees are present in West Virginia including Oak, Maple, Poplar. 

A person takes in the afternoon sun amid the cherry blossoms along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, the annual onset of watery eyes and scratchy throats is bumping up against the global spread of a new virus that produces its own constellation of respiratory symptoms. That’s causing angst for people who suffer from hay fever and are now asking themselves whether their symptoms are related to their allergies or the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Spring allergies can also be caused by mold spores, Mold, such as yeast and mildew, releases seeds called spores that are carried by the wind. They’re very abundant in the air outside and tend to cause the worst allergy symptoms from spring through fall. 

What are symptoms of Spring allergies and how do they get treated? 

We have three options for treating allergies; Avoidance, Medication and Immunotherapy 

For Avoidance, we can keep doors and windows shut as well as use allergen filters on our furnaces. 

For medications, we can use corticosteroid nose sprays to reduce swelling and congestion of the turbinates, antihistamines to block histamine which is a trigger to the nasal swelling. These two options are the mainstay of treatment.  

More acute treatments including decongestants should only be utilized for 3 days at a time to avoid rebound symptoms. 

For long term suffers, allergists may suggest immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots. 

A pedestrian wearing a face covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic walks past blooming daffodils in a park in London, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 as the lockdown in Britain continues. Britain has given a first vaccine shot to over 15 million people, almost a quarter of the population. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

How does it connect to weather?

As our rainy season starts, it obviously allows our plants to grow (and leads to an increase in grass and tree pollen). Tree, grass, and ragweed pollens thrive on cool nights and warmer days. Molds on the flip side like high heat and high humidity.

Dr. Brittanie West, Family Physician at United Hospital Center

Gusty winds and warm weather can surge the pollen levels as that energy will help the pollen move from one area to another.

And rain will wash the pollen away, but then after the rain dries off, the pollen counts soar after that.

Dr. Brittanie West, Family Physician at United Hospital Center

Moving to another climate to avoid allergies is usually not successful — allergens are virtually everywhere. 

Can seasonal allergies be confused with COVID-19 symptoms?

The pollen counts aren’t the only thing that are soaring. Sneezing as well as itchy and watery eyes are typical allergy symptoms. Other allergy symptoms such as sore throat, headaches, and a dry cough are common for this time of year, but it also can be confused with symptoms of COVID-19.

Those are the symptoms when you’re sitting in the middle and you’re trying to figure out which one you have, but the things that go along more with COVID are a fever – allergies don’t cause fever – myalgias maybe, muscle aches, weakness, feeling really fatigued.

Dr. Brittanie West, Family Physician at United Hospital Center

Both COVID 19 and allergies have some overlapping symptoms. Symptoms that are similar include sore throat, headache, congestion, and cough. Symptoms that suggest allergies include itchy eyes or watery eyes with sneezing. Symptoms that should prompt you to consider COVID 19 include Fever, Shortness of Breath, Muscle aches, weakness, new loss of taste or smell, or GI symptoms. 

Venn Diagram listing symptoms more common of COVID-19 including fever and chills, muscle and body aches and new loss of taste or smell, symptoms more common of seasonal allergies including itchy or watery eyes and sneezing, and symptoms common of both including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose.
Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are having difficulty deciding between COVID 19 and allergies, there are many resources. One option is to call your Primary Care Physician, most offices will have someone to help triage. Another is to call the COVID 19 hotline. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has an informational hotline to address public and medical provider questions and concerns regarding COVID-19. The toll-free hotline – 1-800-887-4304 – is available 24/7 to provide accurate information about COVID-19, the risk to the public, and the state’s response. 

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