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Column originally published Apr 28, 2020

Symptoms Of Spring Allergy Can Be Confused with Covid-19 Pandemic Infection

Question: I have severe seasonal allergy. Every spring and fall, I will sneeze and cough for weeks. I have a nose spray that I use from time to time, but it doesn’t work. I have tried many over-the-counter allergy medications; they don’t help much, and I get sleepy. It has not been a big deal until now. Every time I go out, people would stare at me. I know what they think. I tell them that it is just my allergy; I don’t have Covid-19 infection, but they won’t believe me. I am going out as little as possible, following the pandemic rules. However, the way people react to my allergy makes me very uncomfortable. Is there anything else that I can do to control my allergy better?


I am very glad that you asked this question. You are right, many of us have allergy in spring and fall. Some of the symptoms of this coronavirus pandemic are very similar to the symptoms of allergy. When they see you cough, they just see the big sign “Covid-19” on your forehead.

Seasonal allergy is very common in spring and fall. For most people, the culprit is mould in decomposing vegetation in the ground. When the snow melts, these mould spores are released into the air, and trigger sneezing, watery eyes, running nose, itchy throat, and cough in those who are susceptible. This happens every year, with varying degrees of severity. It can go into late spring and early summer, when pollens fill the air.

Depending on the severity of allergy symptoms, steroid nose spray can help to reduce allergy symptoms in the nose. These nasal sprays need to be used consistently once or twice a day throughout the allergy season. For those with more severe allergy, these sprays alone may not be sufficient.

Long-acting anti-histamines can be helpful. These are newer medications that were designed to control allergy symptoms for twelve to 24 hours. They have less sedating side effect compared with regular anti-histamines. Many of these long-acting anti-histamines are available over-the-counter, at lower dosages than prescription anti-histamines, to ensure their safety for general public.

If you have severe allergy, these over-the-counter long-acting anti-histamines may not be effective for you. You will need to contact your physician to get the prescription strength. The higher doses are still very safe; you won’t be congested, sneezing and coughing all the time. Without these allergy symptoms, people around you will not suspect that you may have Covid-19 infection.

You may also need inhalers for your cough, especially steroid inhalers that can reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes. Allergy in the bronchial tubes can cause inflammation, resulting in mucus production, irritation, and cough. You need to contact your doctor for prescription of these inhalers.

If you leave the allergy unchecked, it can lead to sinus infection, headache, and fever. These are some of the same symptoms of Covid-19 infection. This is another reason why you should take steps to control your allergy symptoms. Having seasonal allergy will not make you more susceptible to Covid-19 infection. However, getting allergy symptoms under control will reduce suspicion and reaction from others when you are out and about. You should still follow all the pandemic precautions.