Symptoms can mimic those of COVID-19
MAYWOOD, IL –Ragweed levels are beginning to rise, says Rachna Shah, MD, an allergist who oversees the Loyola Medicine Daily Allergy Count. And as some allergy symptoms mirror those of COVID-19, seasonal allergy sufferers should be especially vigilant when adhering to treatment plans and precautions.
“A rise in ragweed tends to mark the informal start of the fall allergy season, which typically begins in mid-August,” says Dr. Shah. The symptoms of seasonal allergies include itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, ear itching or popping, post-nasal drip and throat irritation. In addition to ragweed, fall allergens include pollen, mold and grass.
“With COVID-19 in the mix and some of the symptoms overlapping (including congestion, runny nose, headaches and throat irritation), it’s especially important this year to have your preventive allergy treatment plan in place,” says Dr. Shah, who explains the differences between allergy and COVID-19 symptoms in a recent Loyola Medicine video.
“Often, when people are feeling well, they will become more lax about following their treatment plans,” says Dr. Shah. For chronic allergy suffers, seasonal treatment protocols—prescriptions, over-the-counter allergy medications and/or steroid nasal sprays—should begin as soon as possible, “as they may take a week or more to kick in.”
In addition, “as allergy symptoms can worsen asthma, causing breathing difficulties, it’s important that you have all of your asthma tools,” says Dr. Shah. “Make sure that your inhaler is up-to-date, not expired, that you have additional inhalers and refills on hand, and that you are taking preventive measures.”
Preventative measures can include modifying activities on days when allergen levels are particularly high.
“Pollen counts are highest in the beginning of the day – from dawn until 10 am,” said Dr. Shah. “Shifting activities to later in the day can help a lot.”
In addition, keeping windows closed on high allergy days, and/or rinsing off or changing clothes after being outside, can help.
To stay on top of what allergens are highest each day, visit the Loyola Medicine Daily Allergy Count web page (loyolamedicine.org/allergy-count), and/or follow the Loyola Daily Allergy Count Twitter page (twitter.com/LoyolaAllergy).
“Patients who are still suffering from allergy symptoms after adhering to their treatment protocols, taking preventive measures and/or modifying daily activities, should be evaluated by a physician,” says Dr. Shah.
To schedule an appointment with a Loyola Medicine allergist, visit loyolamedicine.org or call 888-584-7888.