Spring has brought upon us the allergy season and more and more people experience unpleasant allergic symptoms. In the current epidemiological situation it is important to be able to distinguish allergic reactions from symptoms of respiratory diseases and viral infections, such as COVID-19.

The most common form of allergy is allergic rhinitis (hay fever) caused by a hypersensitive reaction to an inhaled allergen. The typical symptoms of hay fever include itchy nose, sneezing, runny and stuffy nose, itchy throat and eyes. The cause is usually some kind of pollen, therefore the onset of symptoms is linked to the season in many cases. In early spring, blossoming trees can cause symptoms while ragweed blooms in mid-August causing nuisance to a lot of people in Hungary. There are allergens triggering symptoms all year round, such as allergic rhinitis caused by house dust mites.

COVID-19 infection also affects the respiratory tract but sneezing and itching are not typical symptoms of this disease. The infection is typically accompanied by a sudden loss of smell and taste, which can develop only over time in case of allergies and appears rather in a reduced form instead of the complete disappearance of the senses.

“The infection is frequently accompanied by elevated body temperature or fever, so unless you experience such symptoms coronavirus is not suspected. It is possible that someone contracts coronavirus at the same time the symptoms of allergic rhinitis appear. However, you should not suspect COVID-19 infection unless you experience one or more of the previously mentioned common symptoms of the virus.”, said Dr. Veronika Müller, Director of Semmelweis University’s Department of Pulmonology.

When the mucous membrane is irritated, the body tries to get rid of it with the help of the immune system. The inflammation triggered by the irritation reduces the defensive capacity of the mucous membrane. It is worth using the medication prescribed by the doctor during the allergy season, as relieving asthmatic and allergic symptoms can help the immune system remain resistant to other respiratory diseases.  

“Although, allergy screening is on hold during the epidemic, it is worth trying over-the-counter allergy products if allergic symptoms are experienced. They can be efficient after a few days’ use, thus you can more easily assess whether the symptoms are those of allergy or some other disease. If you need to buy prescription drugs for your existing allergy condition, your GP can provide you with an e-prescription without personal appointment, which can be used in any pharmacies.”, Dr. Müller said.

László Sturbán
Featured image: Getty Images
Translation: Ágnes Raubinek