Understanding the difference between seasonal allergies, influenza and COVID-19 symptoms

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As an asthma researcher, Linda Gibson-Young is often speaking about key signs for recognizing and diagnosing child asthma. Many times, asthma and allergies share similar symptoms and work hand in hand. With the uncertainties in health care today, the public is questioning the difference.

How do we tell the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19?

Seasonal allergies result from exposure to allergens or triggers. Allergens vary from person to person and this time of year seasonal allergies are flourishing. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, bloodshot eyes and runny nose. If a person has asthma, then we might note a cough, but this is typically dry and nonproductive. A fever is not a symptom of allergies or asthma.

On the other hand, COVID-19 or coronavirus has three main symptoms: fever (>100.4), cough and shortness of breath. For these symptoms, we encourage a call or visit to primary or acute health care providers.

What are steps to reduce the effects of allergens?

In Alabama, selected plants are in flower each month and lead to pollen exposure. To reduce pollen exposure, avoid touching your face and make sure to wash your hands frequently. Avoid being outside when pollen counts are elevated and delegate outdoor activities, when possible (e.g. mowing lawn, gardening). Shower after outdoor exposures. Identify specific allergen or trigger and avoid.

Patients living with asthma, a chronic condition, may have symptoms when asthma is out of control. These symptoms include dry and nonproductive cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. If symptoms occur, patients should follow up with their asthma specialist. Many times, asthma is triggered with allergy symptoms.

What is different with seasonal flu or influenza?

With the flu, we notice an abrupt onset with symptoms. These symptoms include fever and chills, cough, chest discomfort, sore throat, headaches and muscle/body aches.

If you’re unsure or exhibit specific symptoms, please notify your primary care provider for evaluation.

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