As soon as the weather gets colder and we are indoors more, the sniffles, sneezing, congestion and sinus pressure converge upon us. The first thing we may wonder is it a cold, the flu, fall allergies, or Covid?
Symptoms of a cold, the flu, allergies, and even Covid-19 all are similar in the early stages. Runny nose, sniffles, congestion, sinus pressure, mucous, and sneezing are all the beginning symptoms of allergies, flu, and coronavirus. The attached chart is helpful in determining what the symptoms could signify. For Instance fever is never present with allergies, nor is body aches or extreme exhaustion.
Covid-19 and acute Flu symptoms can put you out of commission and get worse over time. Covid-19 needs some detective work:
- Have you been around an infected person?
- Did you travel to a Covid-19 hot spot, etc?
Cold symptoms usually resolve themselves within a couple of days. And Allergy symptoms occur regularly and are usually mild.
With the current Pandemic concerns it hard to feel sympathetic for someone with a few allergies. However, many studies show that allergies can cause significant disruption of day to day comfort, disrupt sleep, and lead to issues with concentration and depression. Poorly controlled allergies could magnify all the other issues surrounding a person’s concern about COVID-19.
So, how can you tell the difference? What can you do about it?
Most people with allergies have had similar symptoms in the past. If the symptoms are seasonal then they may be realizing, “Wow, this happened last year in the spring?” Or, “when the cat comes to play with me my eyes start to itch and water.” These insights can help guide allergy testing and therapy. Often times, allergy symptoms get worse over time with repeated exposures. So, this spring could be worse than last spring.
Once allergy symptoms start they can be hard to control, like a ‘snowball effect.’ It’s important to identify the triggers, trial avoidance, and to try some of the medications that are available over the counter. Medicines like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra are well known brands that have very low side effect issues. Try one pill once a day for a few days and see if that helps. Other easy and effective therapies are saline nasal sprays. In the past few years, nasal steroids have become available. These medicines are Flonase and Nasacort. Give them a try for a few days or weeks and see if this helps as well. If you only have a partial response or you are not getting better then consider evaluation by a board-certified allergist.
The chart maybe helpful in sorting out viral infections from allergy symptoms. But, again, the big difference will be to assess for a fever. If you’ve got a fever, then you need to consider the possibility of a viral infection. Allergies do not cause fevers. The tree pollens can be a cause for allergy and you can follow the pollen counts here: