How do I know if an illness is spring allergies or COVID-19?
Allergies are common. With about 40% of kids and adults having some form of nose or eye allergies, it’s not surprising that some kids are feeling the effects of tree, grass or ragweed pollen as the seasons change. Regardless of the pollen type, the most common symptoms of allergies are sneezing, nose itching, nasal congestion and nose dripping. It’s important to note that drainage from the nose with allergies is always clear and watery.
COVID-19 can cause nose congestion, and at times lead to clear, watery drainage, but it does not cause nose sneezing and itching. COVID-19 also has a very common symptom of decreased sense of smell in adults. Nose allergies never decrease your sense of smell. It’s also important to note that despite nose allergies due to pollen being called “hay fever,” a fever is never present in allergies and hay is not the major cause. COVID-19, on the other hand, can definitely cause fever.
COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a viral infection that can cause a wide range of flu-like symptoms whereas seasonal allergies are triggered by airborne pollen and primarily lead to sneezing, runny or itchy nose, nasal congestion and itchy or red eyes. Some allergy sufferers with asthma may also have coughing and wheezing, but typically seasonal allergies affecting the nose don’t cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, which is the case with COVID-19.
If you know your child has seasonal allergies, the best treatments can be discussed with your provider but may involve daily doses of oral antihistamines, nose sprays and eye drops. There are benefits to each:
Nose sprays, such as fluticasone or triamcinolone, work well to treat sneezing, itching, congestion and dripping. They work best if taken daily.
Eye drops are fast-acting and work well as needed. They work best taken daily if needed.
Oral antihistamines, such as loratadine, cetirizine or fexofenadine, treat sneezing and itching, but not as well as nasal sprays. They do not treat nasal congestion or dripping.
And while masks may not completely prevent allergen exposure, wearing one may help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
As kids change, so can their sensitivity to allergens. If you suspect your child has allergies, speak with their pediatrician to determine if testing is recommended. By knowing which allergy triggers are the worst for kids, parents can try to manage symptoms and lessen the stress a stuffy nose can bring in the midst of a pandemic during allergy season.
— Brian Schroer, MD, director of allergy and immunology at Akron Children’s Hospital
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