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- By Dr. Taslima Akter, Family Doctor,
- 22 Sep, 2020
Symptoms of flu, cold, and allergy are quite similar to those of COVID-19, so with every cough and sneeze, people wonder whether they have been infected with the coronavirus. Allergies normally cause symptoms such as runny nose and sinus but generally do not result in fever, as is mostly seen with COVID-19 or flu.
Bangladesh is a developing country with 150 million population. About 20% to 25% of population is suffering from different types of allergic disorder. They suffer almost all year round from different kinds of symptoms.
Allergy vs COVID 19:
COVID-19 is a highly contagious and viral disease which can spread via air, respiratory droplets, or close personal contact. The symptom onset is around 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Allergies on the other hand is a non-contagious hypersensitive reaction to the immune system when one is exposed to their trigger or allergen such as pollen, dust, mold, etc. Allergy symptoms are usually more localized, ranging from mild to severe, and can occur seasonally or be present year-long.
For instance, a patient with COVID-19 may have a fever, body aches, chills, a sore throat, weakness, and respiratory symptoms, while someone with allergies will be more likely to have the symptoms centered on the eyes, nose, and throat, and they usually don’t have a fever. Furthermore, in cases of allergy, symptoms improve when administering antihistamines but this does not help patients with COVID-19.
Although some coronavirus symptoms are similar to allergies, there are many variations. The image below from the CDC compares symptoms caused by allergies and COVID-19.
Some key points to differentiate allergies from COVID-19:
People often suffering from allergies have a personal history of allergy from allergens like food, pollen, dust, etc, and other atopic diseases. They may also have had previous similar allergy attacks or have a family history of atopy or allergy. COVID-19 is an extremely viral and contagious virus that can spread from person to person without any personal history.
Allergies typically make people itchy which is not a symptom for COVID-19. People with allergies may also have asthma which can cause coughing, breathlessness, chest pain and tightness, and wheezing. Even though most are similar symptoms, COVID-19 typically does not develop wheezing.
Allergy symptoms can be treated with allergy medication like antihistamines and steroids. On the other hand, there is yet no proven medication or vaccine that can cure COVID-19.
Some study shows the clinical course of COVID in allergic patients is associated with a worsening of allergies, for example, exacerbation of asthma. Even so, a clear understanding of COVID-19 infection in allergic patients compared to non-allergic patients is limited, and more clinical evidence is needed.
CDC recommends wearing masks as masks also offer some protection against seasonal allergies because they can prevent some larger particles from being inhaled. Discard your masks after each use, particularly if you suffer from seasonal allergies, because the covering may carry particles such as pollen.
The best way to prevent or treat allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen. On the other hand, the best way to prevent COVID 19 infection is wearing masks, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and maintaining social distancing. Finally, anyone who has any illness or symptoms must make sure to quarantine at home to avoid spreading the germs.