As employees return to work battling allergies, many are being sent home if they exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID.
Initially these included cough, fever and/or shortness of breath. But as COVID positive cases were investigated and reviewed, officials found a myriad of symptoms reported by patients including nausea, diarrhea, loss of taste and sense of smell.
Last month the CDC updated their list of symptoms that could be associated with a COVID-19 infection, including runny nose and congestion.
According to the CDC website:
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Severe symptoms can include chest pain, worsening breathing, change in skin color, dizziness, confusion, severe headache and more, prompting immediate medical attention.
Runny nose and congestion were incorrectly used by many patients and medical providers as “disqualifiers” that they had a COVID infection, when we needed to remind patients that COVID could manifest in a variety of symptoms. Moreover someone could suffer from allergies and COVID at the same time, so as to not exclude the viral disease based on having additional symptoms not yet listed on the CDC website.
The CDC further explains: This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.
As allergy season plagues most the nation and resurges in the Fall for many, common symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion can prevent many from returning to work or school, requiring isolation.
There is no clear cut way to diagnose or exclude a diagnosis of COVID without testing. Hence many employees cannot return to work until their testing proves negative or they have completed their period of isolation, despite swearing that “all I have is allergies!!”
If you suffer from allergies for months on end…..you’re not have an easy time no matter how you look at it…..
What are allergies?
Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses. One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder. Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body. IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood. When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.
What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:
- Runny nose
- Eye watering
- Red Eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy skin
- Itchy throat
- Congestion….. to name a few.
How do they differ from a cold?
Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies. However they are different.
The common cold is caused by a virus. When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy. This does not occur with allergies.
Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear. In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.
The same holds true with sputum. During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light-colored. Thick mucus could be a sign of an infection.
An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy. A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.
Allergies may persist or be cyclical. Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.
Can allergies lead to a cold?
Yes and no. Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over. Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.
Are seasonal allergies dangerous?
As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack. Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.
How can we prevent and treat allergies?
Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key. We suggest the following:
- Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts. If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
- Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house. Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
- Clean your air filters. Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
- Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
- Close your car windows when you park.
- “Recirculate” the air in your car
- Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.
- If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels.
How can I find my local pollen counts?
Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.