Don't confuse allergies with COVID this spring, doctors warn

It could be spring ... not COVID.
It could be spring ... not COVID.

As plumes of pollen waft through the air in the lead-up to canola season, doctors are warning patients not to confuse their ordinary allergy symptoms with COVID-19.

Allergist Theresa Pitts said it was a source of fear and confusion for both the allergy sufferers as well as passersby, who were understandably wary of people with coughs and runny noses in public.

"Everyone moves straight away from you," Dr Pitts said.

"People do worry that their allergies will be confused with coronavirus."

The Riverina-based health professional said the allergy problems would only become more prominent in September, when the some of the countryside turns golden with canola fields and other allergy-inducing flowering plants.

Her advice for allergy sufferers is to remain vigilant with their usual antihistamine and steroid nose spray use, as well as spending more time indoors away from the source of the allergens.

Theresa Pitts. Picture: Jody Lindbeck

Theresa Pitts. Picture: Jody Lindbeck

Dr Pitts is also advising patients to watch for aches, pains, and fever-like symptoms, which are typically not allergy-related and potentially a sign of viruses, including coronavirus.

For those in any doubt Dr Pitts is urging patients to get tested for COVID-19 earlier rather than later.

"The strongest message to give to people is this: if you're not sure whether it's allergy or coronavirus, then it's really important to be tested for COVID-19," Dr Pitts said.

"if there's any doubt as to whether it's an allergy or a virus it's extremely important to get tested to rule out whether it is a virus."

Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman is urging early preventative action, saying it can take few weeks for asthma prevention medications and nasal sprays to take full effect.

Hay fever in particular can present COVID-like symptoms, including a runny nose, blocked sinuses, cough, sneezing, itchy eyes, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Ms Goldman said runny nose and irritated eyes were particularly troublesome symptoms, since they prompt people to touch their face and increase their chance of COVID infection.

"In a pandemic, if you can prevent sneezing, a runny nose, rubbing your eyes and getting shortness of breath, you should, it will be better for you and those around you," Ms Goldman said.

"If you get on top of your allergies and asthma, you have a clearer picture of any new or worsening symptoms which may be caused by other things, like the COVID-19 virus."

 EXPERT: Paediatrician Theresa Pitts, pictured here outside her practice, runs a monthly allergy clinic for children in the Riverina. Picture: Les Smith

EXPERT: Paediatrician Theresa Pitts, pictured here outside her practice, runs a monthly allergy clinic for children in the Riverina. Picture: Les Smith

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