The start of fall brings pumpkin spice lattes, fresh apples, and allergies. The most common causes of sneezing, sniffling, headaches, and red-eyed misery are ragweed and other weeds, along with trees and the mold and mildew from wet, fallen leaves.
But this year, with the presence of COVID-19, you may find yourself worrying that your symptoms are virus-related instead of coming from allergies.
That's understandable. Many symptoms — such as a sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell — can seem similar to COVID-19. But there are important differences.
Coronavirus symptoms are often accompanied by a fever. That's not an allergy symptom.
Gastrointestinal distress and achy muscles are also not signals of seasonal allergies.
Itchy eyes, nose, throat, and ears? Sneezing? Those are generally signs of an allergic reaction, especially if you experience such symptoms annually.
If you're nervous about how you're feeling, you can take these steps:
• Make an appointment with an allergist. A scratch test will identify most allergens.
• If you have allergies, avoid being outdoors during peak pollen hours (mid-morning to early afternoon).
• When you do go out, wear your face mask. It can reduce pollen exposure while decreasing the chance of spreading COVID-19.
• Use a neti pot — scrupulously cleaned — twice a day to flush your sinuses and reduce irritation. You can also use over-the-counter antihistamines and other medications. Ask your doctor what's best.
• Get a COVID test. If you don't typically suffer from allergies and you have new symptoms, getting tested is the smart (and socially responsible) thing to do.