RAPID CITY S.D. – As the COVID-19 outbreak coincides with the beginning of spring allergy season, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. However, Dr. Haile Anderson who specializes in allergies, asthma, and immunology at Rapid City Medical Center has some advice for how to differentiate between them.
One indicator that you are suffering from allergies and not COVID-19 is if you have experienced springtime allergies in the past. According to Dr. Anderson, “one of the most important things for people to do is to consider their typical history with seasonal allergies. If the seasonal itchy eyes, nose, and sneezing, is a typical pattern, that indicates that this is more likely allergies.” Your response to allergy medication can also be a clue. “If you are having symptoms and you are unsure whether it is related to allergies or to an illness, sometimes taking something like Zyrtec or Allegra might be a good way to find out. If you have a good response to that medication, it would be more suggestive of allergies,” says Dr. Anderson.
You will know you are dealing with COVID-19 if your symptoms include, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. According to Dr. Anderson, “With COVID-19 specifically, fever often is present and general allergies do not cause people to have a fever.” Symptoms usually appear within five to fourteen days after being exposed to the virus. However, it is possible to suffer from COVID-19 and experience no symptoms at all. If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, contact your doctor to find out whether you should be tested for the virus. “I highly recommend individuals talk with their primary care provider to see if they would be a candidate for testing,” says Dr. Anderson. “If you are having a fever for many days or are unable to walk across a room because of shortness of breath, those would be reasons to go seek urgent care. Otherwise, for mild conditions, it is important for an individual to speak with their primary care provider, because underlying health conditions may factor into whether or not you should be tested.”
Many who suffer from asthma and allergies will often use intranasal corticosteroids. If you are worried about these medications lowering your immunity, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) states that there is no data to suggest these medications will increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Therefore, allergy and asthmas sufferers should continue their medication as prescribed. According to Dr. Anderson, “Use of topical steroids like inhalers or nasal sprays are not dangerous and have been found to be incredibly safe, even in the context of COVID-19.” In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, people with allergies and asthma have been found to be at a lower risk of getting COVID-19. According to Dr. Anderson, “This is pretty novel because in general people who have asthma are at risk for breathing difficulties, but we haven’t seen asthma be as big of a risk factor for COVID-19 as we originally thought it would have been.”
With clinics now treating those who potentially have COVID-19, many may be apprehensive about going in for an allergy treatment. If this is the case, it is important to stay away from whatever is making your allergies flare up and try over-the-counter allergy medicines to alleviate symptoms. If you are having trouble finding a medication that works for you, Rapid City Medical Center provides Telemedicine appointments for their patients to meet with their preferred physician without going to the clinic in person. According to Dr. Anderson, “Telemedicine is a great tool and I think people would be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is and how much information you can get from the comfort of your home.”