With the coronavirus disease still at large, every cough and fever episode is not to be taken lightly. However, as the novel virus coincides with the beginning of spring allergies, it might be a bit difficult to tell which is which.
Before panicking, after releasing a coughing fit at home, here is all the information you need to know about seasonal allergies and what differentiates them from a Covid-19 infection.
What Are Seasonal Allergies?
Spring signals a new beginning. It is the time where the sun shines its warming rays to growing trees and flourishing flowers. It is considered a welcoming change after months of snow and frozen ground.
However, spring is a dreaded season, especially for people with allergic rhinitis. For them, the warm breeze means air entangled with a bunch of pollen and mold spores that cause teary eyes and a relentless fit of “Hachuu!”.
This particular health phenomenon is called seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies refer to the allergic reaction occurring during a specific time of the year. This happens when your immune system gets triggered and goes into overdrive when exposed to a particular outdoor allergen.
This allergen usually arises only during a specific season of the year, hence the name seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies occur less in winter and more prevalent during early spring. However, it is possible to suffer from allergies all year round (perennial allergies), especially for people with allergic rhinitis.
How Do Allergies Happen?
The body’s allergic response reacts upon exposure to specific allergens. Allergens are otherwise harmless substances save for when they enter a body allergic to them. Here is a play-by-play of what happens inside the body of a person with allergic rhinitis.
- The moment allergens enter your system, they will be branded as foreign substances by your immunity.
- Your body would then respond, albeit in overreaction, by producing antibodies against these foreign allergens.
- Then, these antibodies will travel and activate cells that release histamine— a primary chemical respondent that gets rid of allergies.
- Histamine and other chemicals released will then induce its action to the body, attempting to eliminate allergens and stop them from further entering the body.
- As a result, allergic reactions happen. This occurs and causes symptoms mainly in the nose, mouth, throat, lungs, sinuses, ears, and sometimes in the skin or stomach.
What Causes Them?
Spring allergies usually get triggered by common spring allergens, such as pollen and mold.
Pollen is the most frequent stimulator of seasonal allergies. Each year, especially during spring, trees and plants release pollen grains for fertilization and reproduction. It will then get picked up by the wind or insects and spread it, allowing plant species to continue.
Pollens in the wind are what cause most allergic reactions in people with allergies. Common sources of pollen include grasses, such as ragweed and sagebrush. Trees starting their pollination during the spring also notoriously spread pollen in the wind. Common tree species culprits include:
Mold is a type of tiny fungus that survives extreme weather and indoor or outdoor environments. Molds love to grow on bathrooms, basements, leaf piles, and rotten logs in the backyard. They only need food, air, water, and the right temperature to thrive and flourish.
However, they are fond of damp areas more than other types of environment. Moreover, they do not die during the frosty season; they just lay dormant and bide their time until spring comes.
Typically, molds are harmless little fungi—anyone can breathe in mold spores in the air and still be okay. The problem lies in people with an overly sensitive immune response against it.
- Dust Mites
Dust mites are small bugs living in house dust. They survive in warm, humid environments and usually occupy your beddings, carpets, and upholstered furniture. They are microscopic creatures that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Allergic reactions happen when a person inhales dust mites or their waste.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
Nasal congestion is the number one enemy of people suffering from allergic rhinitis. Other common symptoms include the following.
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy nose
- Coughing or wheezing
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Extreme fatigue
Looking at the common symptoms, aren’t they eerily familiar with a viral infection that has been negatively impacting the world lately?
How to Differentiate Seasonal Allergies From COVID-19
The coronavirus disease has been spreading like wildfire all across the globe. With it, comes the public’s heightened panicked state, to the point that a single cough in a room full of people will get you some stinky eyes.
According to the CDC, symptoms vary depending on the infected person’s health state. However, most patients exhibited some common signs that may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
- Coughing or wheezing
- Sore throat
- Headache and muscle aches
- Nasal congestion
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
The symptoms of Covid-19 and seasonal allergies have similarities and often overlap with each other. So, it is crucial to know how to distinguish one health condition from the other.
- Both conditions affect the respiratory system, specifically the lungs and throat. However, viral illnesses always come with fever—a symptom that is never seen in allergic rhinitis.
- Patients with the novel virus do not exhibit sneezing and itchiness of the eyes. In contrast, seasonal allergies have both symptoms in almost 98% of its cases.
- Another one is the development of pinkeye. Redness and itchiness of the eye is a common and prominent allergic response of the body. However, there are reported cases of pinkeye in 1 to 3% of Covid-19 positive patients.
- Lastly, allergy symptoms wane over time and only get worse when you go outside. For Covid-19, symptoms and health state worsens, especially for individuals with an underlying medical condition.
However, it is still possible to have allergies and contract a viral infection at the same time. So, if you have an overlapping of symptoms, it is best to get yourself checked out. Seek the help of a medical professional or a health system navigator to guide you on the therapeutic processes.