Hay Fever, Asthma And COVID-19 – Know The Difference
As we start to feel the warmth of spring and the winter months come to an icy close, some us will have a new issue to contend with… hay fever. Even worse than this, asthma.
Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) and asthma share many similarities but are regarded as two different conditions and thus should not be confused. Both may be chronic in nature with triggers that contribute towards causing an exacerbation or worsening of the situation.
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever also known as allergic rhinitis, is one of the most common chronic conditions for which medical care is sought. It is characterised by cold-like symptoms but unlike a cold or the flu, is not caused by a virus. As a result, there is the absence of a fever.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to a runny nose accompanied by congestion and sneezing, itchy eyes, a cough, and often fatigue. If you suffer from severe and persistent rhinitis, you may be at higher risk of developing asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways of the lungs. It causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways as well as swelling and production of additional mucus. This results in difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing and wheezing. Very often these symptoms are accompanied by anxiety due to the increased difficulty breathing during an asthma attack.
It is important to mention that it may work the other way too. Anxiety could also cause an asthma attack. The symptoms of asthma may vary from mild to severe. It is a treatable disease but is not entirely curable although once well controlled, may give the impression it is. Treatment will depend on the type of asthma that has been diagnosed and the severity of the individual’s condition.
What causes asthma and hay fever?
Hay fever may be triggered during certain seasons of the year like Spring, late Summer or Winter and is usually brought on by pollens in the air, dust mites or spores from fungi and mould. Asthma may have triggers that are not unlike hay fever, which is usually the case in allergic asthma. Other types of asthma include exercise-induced asthma, nocturnal asthma, and occupational asthma. The cause of asthma is directly related to the type of asthma you have.
Is there a link between hay fever and asthma and how are they treated?
There are similarities between hay fever and asthma as both are respiratory related diseases. If not adequately treated, both may result in significant illness and poor quality of life.
Hay fever may be treated primarily using an antihistamine to reduce the allergic reaction. Other medication could include a decongestant and an anti-inflammatory. These will make it easier to breathe and reduce pain. The best approach to preventing an allergic reaction is to avoid the cause but that may prove impossible especially if the allergen is in the air.
Asthma can usually be managed with rescue inhalers to treat symptoms and controller inhalers that prevent symptoms. Severe cases may require longer-acting inhalers that keep the airways open, as well as oral steroids. If you think the symptoms you are experiencing may be a sign of a condition such as asthma, make an appointment to see your doctor who will make a proper diagnosis.
Is it COVID-19 or hay fever?
COVID-19 is characterised by fever , fatigue , shortness of breath and a dry cough . Sometimes, it may also cause cold -like symptoms such as a runny nose . The allergy season, it may be hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and hay fever. However, keep in mind that hay fever will not cause an actual fever. If you have any of the above symptoms, especially a fever, call your doctor. If you get allergies every year, watch for symptoms that may differ from what you have experienced before.
Severe allergies can cause tightness in the chest and shortness of breath, especially if you have a history of asthma, too. But these can also be serious symptoms of COVID-19. If you are not sure or if you have not been diagnosed with asthma seek medical help right away.
COVID-19 does not cause sneezing but if you do feel the need to sneeze, it is important to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue to keep particles and potentially germs from spreading. Discard the tissue right away and always wash your hands.
Remember, you can have allergies and a viral infection at the same time. If you have classic allergy signs like itchy eyes and a runny nose along with COVID-19 symptoms like fatigue and a fever, seek medical help.
How to treat allergies during a pandemic
During a virus outbreak, it can be hard to get to a doctor or pharmacy for allergy treatment. The first thing to do is to avoid the triggers that make your symptoms flare up.
There are also many over-the-counter allergy medicines that a pharmacist can advise on. Check if your pharmacy delivers or place an order online or by phone. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange a virtual consultation with your healthcare provider who will assess your condition by asking you a series of questions and will prescribe medication appropriately.
When social distancing or staying at home always abide by the following COVID-19 safety precautions:
- Keep your distance from others
- Always wash your hands
- Wear a cloth facemask when you go out
In addition, if you do not feel well, stay at home. If your condition deteriorates, seek medical assistance but always phone ahead if you plan to visit your doctor’s rooms.