A sneeze is just a sneeze – excuse me for that Casablanca song – except when it’s not.

As if the return of allergy season wasn’t troublesome enough, the lingering presence of COVID-19 has added another layer of discomfort to all the sneezing, runny noses and throats. However, a few quick features can help allergy sufferers to determine if sneezing, runny nose, or whatever is a possible allergy or symptom of COVID-19.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that more than 100 million Americans suffer from allergies of various types each year and that allergies are the “sixth leading cause of chronic disease in America.”

It is not?

The combination of COVID with allergy can make self-diagnosis times especially painful for allergy sufferers like Dr. Karen Duus, a professor at the University of Nevada Touro who teaches immunology and microbiology in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant and health sciences programs at the university.

He has two seasonal allergies and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year. She received a stem cell transplant in June, and now, as her immune system continues to rebuild, she is especially vigilant about developing allergies and her symptoms.

“I have allergies and they’re starting to show,” she said. “And the covid also had two injections.”

The two joked that they “really hoped” their allergies would clear up as part of the transplant. But the hematologist informs him that “unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way,” which leads Duus to the question, “Is it or isn’t it?” that all allergy sufferers should undergo during the COVID era.

Although allergies and COVID can cause some similar symptoms, they are different entities. First of all, there is the COVID virus. “It’s an infection,” said Dr. Rick Vinuya, head of allergy at Optum Allergy. COVID is also spread from person to person in the form of respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or breathing.

Instead, seasonal allergies are a reaction of the body’s immune system to exposure to environmental allergens such as tree pollen or animal dander.

According to Vinuya, COVID is typically associated with symptoms that include fever, shortness of breath, and a severe cough. The symptoms of COVID also tend to occur “beyond the nose, throat and eyes” and include diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches, nausea and “a general feeling of being sick,” he said.

The biggest difference

Among the notable differences between COVID and allergies is the “drastic smell” that, according to Vinuya, can appear with the former.

“Some omicron variants are now available with less odor loss,” he added, but older COVID variants come with “stronger and more severe odor loss.”

But symptoms that indicate allergies often include itchy eyes, ears and throat, nasal congestion and watery eyes, Vinuya explained. “Anything that itches is usually an allergy.”

Dr. Manas Mandal, a professor at Roseman University of Health Sciences of pharmacy, said that those people who have an allergic reaction almost never have diarrhea or loss of smell or taste.

Although shortness of breath can be associated with COVID, Mandalis said, “an allergy patient rarely shows shortness of breath unless they are also an asthma patient.”

Viam Vinuya said that although hay fever is an allergy, it is not a fever.

Although these are some general guidelines, “if you have doubts” you can get rapid antigen tests that are administered for COVID,” Mandalus said. “In five minutes, you can almost certainly say if he is infected (covid-19).”

Face masks and vaccines

If there is something in common between COVID and allergies, perhaps wearing a quality, well-fitting mask can at least offer protection against both.

The duo said they noticed that in 2020 and 2021, wearing the covid mask, “my allergies were much milder when I was outside.”

“That’s a common observation,” Mandalis said, and the quality of the person’s body can create a barrier that can help prevent pollen and other allergens from entering the nose.

Similarly, although the research is not conclusive, “we know anecdotally that during the peak period of COVID, the infection decreases sharply,” Vinuya added, although “we don’t really know if it’s masking or isolation.”

Many allergy sufferers rely on over-the-counter antihistamines to treat their allergies. But Vinuya said that a more effective option is allergy shots that help, in effect, sensitize the body to exposure to specific allergens.

“Medicines are Band-Aids,” says Vinuya. “Allergy shots alter the immune system.”

Ultimately, the shots provide better control of allergy symptoms, require less medication and may reduce the likelihood of asthma exacerbations, he added.

“Allergy has been dismissed for decades: “allergies are just that; he took * They are considered a secondary disease: “It’s not a big deal,” Vinuya said. But allergies can have major consequences.

“The number one reason is quality of life. Who wants to be sick all the time?” added Vinuya.

Allergies can affect mood, preventing them from performing at work or school and lead to absenteeism, he said.

Also important: Allergies are the “number one risk factor for developing asthma,” according to Vinuya, as allergy patients are two to three times more likely to have asthma.

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