You sneeze. Perhaps you have little sniffle. And now, a bit of an itchy throat. Before 2020, you might have soldiered on without a worry. Now that it’s springtime in Australia, can you assume it’s just your allergies?
With symptom overlap between seasonal allergies, colds and COVID-19, it’s now confusing to know what to do when you have a runny nose or sneezing.
Here, we help you to detangle the differences, and better understand how you can manage colds and allergies in 2020. You may need to adjust some of your expectations and actions in light of the global pandemic.
Seasonal allergies (‘hay fever’ or seasonal allergic rhinitis) are often triggered when tiny pollen particles from plants release into the air to fertilise other plants. This happens at particular times of year – especially springtime.
This diagram from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA shows the differences and similarities between the symptoms of seasonal allergies and COVID-19. They share some symptoms, but there are often some key differences between the two. For example, COVID-19 can cause fever, which is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies.
As some of the common symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are similar, you may find it difficult to tell the difference between them.
If you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms (even if you suspect it’s just your first allergy attack of the season), get tested for COVID-19 to confirm your diagnosis. If you normally have seasonal allergies and you experience any new symptoms or a change in your symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 straight away.
Given the similarities, doctors are urging those with seasonal allergies to manage them as best they can.
The best thing to do is to stay away from whatever makes your symptoms flare up. For example:
If you are unsure about what might be affecting you, please contact your GP. Your GP can help you:
Those who get hay fever may also experience asthma during allergy season. Make sure you have an asthma treatment and prevention plan in place.
To speak with an InstantScripts GP:
The common cold is caused by rhinoviruses. These viruses cause respiratory symptoms such as:
The influenza virus (more about that here) also causes these respiratory symptoms. COVID-19 is caused by a new form of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are group of viruses that cause also cause respiratory infections.
The table below summarises the differences in symptoms between the various respiratory viruses circulating in the community.
It can be tempting to assume your symptoms are not related to COVID-19. Perhaps you think that a test isn’t necessary or that getting tested is a hassle or difficult.
A recent Monash University study revealed that 85 per cent of Australians who have cold or flu-like symptoms are not getting tested.
If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath), get tested for COVID-19.
Follow any stay-at-home (isolation) guidelines given to you by the health workers at the testing clinic.
Fortunately, the same public health measures for COVID-19 apply to the spread colds and flu:
You must wear a mask if directed by your state government. If masks are not mandatory, consider wearing one:
Living through this pandemic requires some changes to our usual ways of managing colds and allergies. Get tested for COVID-19 when appropriate, manage your allergies and/or asthma optimally and stay healthy by practicing good public hygiene measures.
For more information go to www.health.gov.au.