Hayfever Vs COVID-19: how to tell them apart
Article updated 5/3/2021
April is undoubtedly the harbinger of the summer season, which most people would happily enjoy even in the lockdown. Unfortunately, those suffering from hayfever, going back out and about could be bring troublesome symptoms.
Hayfever sufferers are again anxious this year as some of the common symptoms of hayfever can be mistaken with the symptoms of coronavirus.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic response of the body towards pollen. Pollen is a fine powder from plants. When pollen comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat the allergic response begins.
Hay fever is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. The most common known reason (trigger) for this allergy is grass pollen, typically the most prevalent of which occurs between May and July, unsurprisingly, this is also the peak symptomatic period for hay fever sufferers.
It is important to note that tree pollen can also bring on symptoms from as early as February until June, and weed pollen from June until as late as September!
Check the pollen forecast on the Met Office website
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Most patients say their hay fever symptoms are easily managed, but some people are severely affected, and their symptoms will have a huge effect on their day to day activities and wellbeing. The symptoms of hay fever vary from person to person these include:
- Blocked or itchy nose
- Feeling sniffy
- Runny nose
- Watery and irritated eyes
- Itchy throat
- Loss of smell
- Headaches, pain in your face (especially the sinuses) and sweats.
- If the fever gets really bad, the patient might have face trouble sleeping.
- sinus pressure
Our Superintendent community pharmacist Mr Nur Choudhury suggests prompt treatment of the symptoms.
‘Hay fever can make us feel really terrible. It is a reaction to pollen, It has no cure, but only prevention can help you’.
He adds, all-round antihistamines like cetirizine or loratadine, can usually bring relief. “If the symptoms appear to impact one system/region, you may also use over-the-counter medicine to address these, such as eye drops or nasal spray,” He also suggests ‘It may even help place some Vaseline around the nostrils to catch pollen to avoid it from going through your nose.”
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most widely reported symptoms of COVID-19 includes cough and a high temperature (37.8°C or above). It is important to note, symptoms can be highly variable from person to person.
People with COVID-19 show flu-like symptoms for around 6-10 days. The virus tends to affect the upper respiratory tract when it is moderate and the signs include
- Elevated temperature (above 37.8C) and sweating.
- Fatigue and muscle ache.
- Irritated throat or sore throat.
- Runny or blocked nose.
- Slight breathlessness may be possible but it does not affect your normal activity level.
- Slight loss of smell.
- If you have moderate COVID-19, it’s likely the virus is affecting the lower respiratory tract, so symptoms tend to affect the lungs more and include:
- More troublesome, persistent cough.
- High temperature that reaches or exceeds 37.8°C.
- Tiredness that might keep you bedbound for a few days.
- Dry mouth from breathing through your open mouth.
- loss of taste
Why could hay fever and COVID-19 be confused?
A few of the signs of hay fever can also be found in coronavirus, i.e. loss of smell cough, swollen nose and feeling unwell overall. You can also note that hay fever worsens any of the asthma effects, such as wheezing and breathlessness, whether you have asthma and hay fever. In reality, during the hay fever season some people get just symptoms of asthma. As breathlessness is one of the symptoms of coronavirus, it is reasonable that some people would be uncertain whether they have hay fever or they have coronavirus. Most of the people affected from hay fever are influenced since childhood and are likely to develop same symptoms each year so they already know the symptoms of it. But in any case, if you haven’t heard you might be worried about suddenly developing nasal or respiratory symptoms. However, for the first time over the age of 20, about one in five people with hay fever have symptoms, so there is no reason to suppose that the symptoms of an adult cannot be caused by hay fever just because they never had it before.
I’m not sure whether it’s hay fever or coronavirus – what should I do?
If you think your fever or cough is new. It is important to self-isolate yourself because it can be the symptoms of corona virus. Mild illness doesn’t require medical attention so you should self-manage at home, taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat symptoms if you need to. If you begin to feel worse or develop more symptoms, you are advised to call 111 to speak to doctors who can prescribe you medication. It is important for you to not to go anywhere if you think you have corona virus.
Are allergy sufferers at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
There is no evidence to suggest allergy sufferers are at higher risk.
Is it possible to have both allergies and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes, one can have both.
How can I manage my hay fever during lockdown?
Hay fever can be managed at home even if your symptoms are severe.
You should stay indoors as much as possible and when in your home keep windows and doors closed. This will reduce your exposure to pollen.
During COVID-19 there is more pressure on frontline health systems, however, help is always at hand and you should not put off seeing or speaking to a professional.
- You can call your local pharmacy for advice.
- If you’re isolating or shielding you could ask someone to visit the pharmacy on your behalf.
- You can also access advice from many pharmacies online (with a telephone or video consultation).
- Call your G.P surgery
- Call 111
Mr Choudhury’s advice is you shouldn’t needlessly suffer. Always ask for medical advice if you are unsure. If you looking for highly effective hay fever treatment, you can view the treatment options available at AccessDoctor.
When to see a doctor
- You can’t find relief from your hay fever symptoms
- Allergy medications don’t provide relief or cause annoying side effects
- You have another condition that can worsen hay fever symptoms, such as nasal polyps, asthma or frequent sinus infections
- Many people especially children get used to hay fever symptoms, so they might not seek treatment until the symptoms become severe. But getting the right treatment might offer relief.
Do allergy shots work for coronavirus?
Allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, consist of a series of treatments aimed to provide long-term relief of severe allergies.
You might consider allergen immunotherapy if you have severe allergy symptoms that interfere with your daily life even after you’ve made changes to your immediate environment. These shots may be used to treat common allergens such as pollens. These are not useful against COVID-19 which now has multiple effective vaccines.
Do I need allergy testing?
For sufferers of vague symptoms and an unconfirmed diagnosis, allergy testing is something to consider. Common allergens tested include:
House dust mites
Treatments for Hayfever
- Antihistamine nasal sprays (Avamys)
- Prescription tablets
- Over the counter medicines (OTC)
- Herbal allergy treatment
How do I treat fever from COVID-19?
The fever associated with COVID-19 or any other viral infection can be treated with Paracetamol. Severe symptoms require medical advice.
Can I have COVID-19 if I have fever?
Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, the diagnosis should be considered, if you have additional symptoms and have been in contact with someone known to have confirmed COVID-19.
Does taking antihistamines dampen your immune response to fight COVID-19?
Over production of IgE antibodies leads to hay fever symptoms; runny nose, sore throat and itchy eyes.
The over production of IgG and IgM is responsible for fighting the [covid-19] virus.
Therefore, taking anti-histamines will not affect your immune response to COVID-19
Avoid sneezing, especially because if you do carry the virus, it can transmit the virus further in droplets when you sneeze, so sneeze into your elbow, use tissues.