Spring has arrived very early this season due to the changing environment and unusual weather patterns across the country. And with this comes an increase in respiratory allergies, caused by early pollination of various plants and trees, on top of ongoing concerns about Covid and the emerging mix of variants like BA.2.
Differentiating initial symptoms between allergies vs. Covid symptoms can be difficult due to similar presentation. This article will help you learn what to expect this allergy season, and help you know the difference between Covid and allergies.
Are Allergies Worse This Year?
In the southeast, cities like Atlanta and Tampa have already experienced a tree allergen spike this month, for the first time in 2022 – with pollen counts in the high range, as compared to similar levels occurring in March 2020.
“In Northern California, the hills are very green, very early this year. The continuing drought could lead to a shorter pollen season; however, pollen levels are currently high for juniper, cedar, cypress, and pine trees, therefore, I’m seeing a surge of allergy cases now,” said Dr. Alan Goldsobel, at the Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northern California and member of Tivic Health’s Medical Advisory Board.
“Experts predict that changing weather conditions from drought to temperature increases and climate change will lead to higher pollen counts overall,” added Dr. Goldsobel.
Many people have been limited to living indoors in their homes for months on end, in light of Covid and Omicron variants, and some – many of them children – may now be more prone to allergic reactions. This is because staying indoors has limited their exposure to allergens and has made their bodies more sensitive.
How to tell if you have the BA.2 variant or just allergies?
While there is some overlap between BA.2/Covid symptoms and allergies , such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and sinus headaches, there are some key differences, noted Dr. Goldsobel. One of those main differences is having a fever, body aches, or generally “just not feeling well” which more commonly occur with upper respiratory illnesses like Covid than allergies.
Signs of Covid vs Allergies
BA.2 infections also produce additional symptoms including sore throat, fatigue, and even gastrointestinal issues, which are uncommon with allergies. Allergy symptoms last longer and can linger for an entire season, while a patient with BA.2/Omicron symptoms may be feeling the effects from two to five days.
“Hopefully, with declining cases of Omicron and its severity decreasing, especially for those who are vaccinated, the chances of upper respiratory symptoms being from allergies vs. Covid will be higher in the coming months. It is possible that with a surge in cases of the BA.2 variant, people may confuse allergy symptoms and Covid, so it’s best to get tested to differentiate,” continued Dr. Goldsobel.
Tips to Help Manage Spring Allergies
Here are a few tips to help you manage spring allergies:
- Know your pollen – tree pollen at level 90 and above is high, while 1-14 is considered low. Plan your day by learning more about allergen and pollen counts in your area from this map by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s (AAAAI) National Allergy Bureau (NAB).
- Plan your outdoor workout times according to when pollen counts are lowest. Generally, pollen counts tend to be highest in the morning, from 5 am to 10 am so it may be a good idea to stay indoors during this time and walk the dog or go for a run later in the day.
- Clean the air filters in your home often, and keep vents and surfaces clean to reduce dust buildup. Vacuum twice a week and be sure to wear a mask as vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold, and dust from your carpet.
- Consider alternative non-invasive treatments like ClearUP® Sinus Pain Relief – a 100% drug-free therapy device that is FDA-approved and has no chemical side effects. It is the only and first of a kind FDA-approved bioelectronic device that targets sinus pain and congestion.