Some fall allergy symptoms mimic those of COVID-19, so seasonal allergy sufferers should follow treatment plans and take precautions to avoid any confusion, an expert says.
“A rise in ragweed tends to mark the informal start of the fall allergy season, which typically begins in mid-August,” said Dr. Rachna Shah, an allergist with Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Ill.
Along with 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,” Shah said in a Loyola news release.
“Often, when people are feeling well, they will become more lax about following their treatment plans,” she added.
If you have chronic allergies, you should begin seasonal treatment protocols — prescriptions, over-the-counter allergy medications and/or steroid nasal sprays — as soon as possible, “as they may take a week or more to kick in,” Shah advised.
She also noted that because “allergy symptoms can worsen asthma, causing breathing difficulties, it’s important that you have all of your asthma tools. 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.”
For example, change the timing of outdoor activities on days when allergen levels are particularly high.
“Pollen counts are highest in the beginning of the day — from dawn until 10 a.m.,” Shah said. “Shifting activities to later in the day can help a lot.”
Also, keeping windows closed and/or rinsing off or changing clothes after being outside can help on high allergen days.
If you follow the recommendations and fail to find relief, you may need medical help.
“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,” Shah said.
Symptoms of fall allergies may include itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, ear itching or popping, postnasal drip and throat irritation.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has more on seasonal allergies.
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