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Overlapping symptoms of seasonal allergies, COVID-19, and flu causing anxiety

Posted at 7:39 PM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 20:43:16-04

It's that time of year where seasonal allergies are flaring up again, but with COVID-19 cases rising and flu season just around the corner, the overlapping symptoms can cause some anxiety.

Tree and grass pollen are typical for the summer and spring, but when we get to fall, rag weed is normally the culprit. However when you throw COVID-19 and the flu into the mix, it can be confusing trying to pinpoint what you're really dealing with.

Normally people don't think twice about a cough or a sneeze, but in the time of a pandemic, Chara McMillian, who suffers from intense seasonal allergies, says she's gotten a few stares.

"I don’t just walk around carrying a I have seasonal allergies card, so when people hear me cough and sneeze, you know, it’s kind of like oh my gosh what’s going on," she said.

Even Beth Smith, who really hasn't had issues with allergies in the past, was hit hard this year.

“Due to the fact that I have COVID like symptoms, I had to do like a video appointment and they believe that it’s seasonal allergies," she said.

Both say they experienced nausea, which isn't a typical symptom for seasonal allergies.

"It’s a lot of anxiety for me as well because I feel pressured to get tested because I don’t know if I’m experiencing coughing and hacking is this like a symptom of COVID or is this just my regular seasonal allergies," McMillian said.

"If you are trying to differentiate between allergies versus something that would be more contagious, then of course you’re looking for the fever and you’re looking for things that make you need medical help," said Karen Percell, Executive Health Director for Quality at Advent Health Central Texas.

If it's more than just a sneeze, runny nose, or itchy eyes, Percell says you should call your doctor just to be sure it's not the coronavirus or the flu.

“Influenza and COVID tend to hit and make you sick for a short amount of time, where is if you have allergies often, you know that you have an environmental allergy for an allergy to that time of year," she said.

As far as viruses are concerned, Percell says the COVID-19 precautions everyone has been following for the past few months could lower influenza numbers this season, but she still believes everyone older than six months should get a flu shot.

"Getting that flu shot is a really good idea whether you yourself are at risk or you have interactions with other people who are at risk. You are going to be able to protect them better if you are not carrying that," she said.

Percell says seasonal allergies can last any between four to six weeks depending on environmental factors, while COVID-19 and the flu have a shorter time frame.