Seasonal allergies and COVID 19 symptoms: how to tell the difference

Local News
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — With worldwide COVID 19 infections closing in on one million, allergy season might be causing an extra spike in anxiety among many.

It’s officially Spring, and for millions of people, that means it’s time to break out the tissues and nose spray. Pollen.com states that an estimated 67 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms, including hay fever.

Dr. Marwan Obid of Obid Allergy and Respiratory said that allergy season is currently in full swing.

“It’s pollen season right now. The trees and the grass are main aggravators this time of year,” Dr. Obid said. “Seasonal allergies include symptoms like sneezing, coughing, congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes.”

WHO (World Health Organization) lists the main symptoms of COVID 19:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Additional symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhea, nausea, or a runny nose.

Dr. Barry Palizzie, DO with Ascension Sacred Heart in Panama City Beach said that during this time of year, it’s typical to see patients with allergies and sinus infections but this year has a little different.  

“I would say that people are a lot more concerned about their symptoms this year,” Dr. Palizzie said. “There is a lot of anxiety in general right now, people are worried that it could be COVID 19.” 

Dr. Palizzie and his staff are currently still seeing patients in person but they are taking extra precautions to ensure everyone is protected. He recommended calling ahead. 

“If you are having any type of upper respiratory symptoms, we are recommending that you call ahead, and let us screen you before you walk through the door,” Dr. Palizzie said. “It gives us an idea of if you are having COVID 19 symptoms or not.” 

With a lot of the symptoms overlapping, Dr. Palizzie said that the screening process focuses on three main symptoms.

“The three mains symptoms that are a part of the screening are fever (any temperature over 100.4 or higher Fahrenheit), cough (even a minor one), and shortness of breath,” Dr. Palizzie said. 

Dr. Obid said there is a key distinction to look out for.

“Usually, you don’t have a fever, body aches, or any change in oxygenation with allergies,” Dr. Obid said.

Still, with the coronavirus death rates rising, individuals might also be confusing anxiety for shortness of breath. 

“We have seen a few patients over the last couple of weeks that were experiencing some of these upper respiratory symptoms.” Dr. Palizzie said. “When they first came in they did seem very short of breath but they also seemed very anxious.”

“However, after examining them and talking to them, they calmed down, and with that, their breathing improved as well,” Dr. Palizzie said. 

The CDC lists specific guidelines for anyone who might be feeling sick, and worried that they could have the virus. Those guidelines don’t necessarily include heading to the ER.

CDC guidelines include: 

  • Stay home: Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.
  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay away from others: As much as possible, you stay away from others. You should stay in a specific “sick room” if possible, and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
  • Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

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