Spring is in the air and so is pollen. Research has shown the allergen can make respiratory illnesses worse and COVID-19 is no exception.
Higher airborne pollen concentrations are correlated with increased COVID-19 infection rates, according to a recent report.
“Pollen actually causes inflammation in your airways if you’re allergic, so you can get stuffy nose, coughing, wheezing, even asthma symptoms from it, similar to what you get with respiratory viruses and then the irony is if you suffer from allergies, you’re more likely to catch a respiratory virus or vice versa because your airways are already inflamed from one thing, such as pollen,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, Allergist Immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network.
Dr. Parikh says this is something wearing a mask can actually help with. Just in the same way it keeps you from breathing in virus particles, masks can also stop pollen particles from getting in your airways.
It’s also important to pay attention to the symptoms you’re experiencing if you have a pollen allergy.
“Itching is more unique to allergies— itchy eyes, itchy ears, throat, skin. And then the other thing that’s more unique to COVID actually is fever. So, usually with allergies you don’t get a temperature over 100.4 or higher which is our threshold for fevers, but with viruses and COVID, you do,” said Dr. Parikh.
Dr. Parikh says loss of taste and smell and muscle aches are also unique to COVID-19, but spring allergies and COVID-19 do have some overlapping symptoms, things like a stuffy nose and dry cough.
So, if you’re unsure, it's best to get tested. Dr. Parikh also stresses that if you’re experiencing any breathing problems, to seek medical help. Allergies can cause this and if you have COVID-19, it can make it worse.