Allergies or COVID-19? East Tenn. Children’s Hospital explains how to tell the difference

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Fall is almost here and while it doesn’t feel like it outside, your nose can probably tell you what’s going on — it’s time for seasonal allergies. If you get a cough or the sniffles, your first thought may be, is this COVID-19, a cold, or something else?

According to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital staff, the most vulnerable population for contracting any illness are babies and those who have pre-existing health problems. So, what’s the best way to protect them and yourself?

“It’s really challenging for parents to tell the difference between seasonal allergies, common colds, and potentially the COVID virus and how it’s affecting kids,” said East Tennessee Children’s Hospitals Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joe Childs.

Dr. Childs said COVID-19 and RSV case numbers are remaining high, “we’re seeing all these other respiratory viruses we’re used to seeing in the winter right now because over the course of the winter we just didn’t see it. With people being much more separate, no worldwide travel, masks being used a lot more, it just protected us from having that kind of season while we were protecting ourselves against COVID-19.”

Now, the changing of seasons has some people concerned about whether their sniffles are from fall allergies or something more severe.

“As the fall pollen season starts, which is especially weeds that are pollinating right now, if you are especially sensitive avoid being outside as much as possible until your past that pollination period,” Childs said.

He adds that a fever is unusual with allergies, so if you have one that might be the first sign that you need to seek medical attention, “Symptoms between RSV and other viruses, even covid, are almost identical.”

Testing for each virus would be the next step he said, “we’re really encouraging parents that if you have a sick child or you’re sick yourself to get a COVID test and make sure that at least you don’t have that.”

Childs said social distancing, masking, and washing your hands are always the best practices to keeping from getting sick, but if you do come down with a cough, “Anytime a family member is ill with respiratory symptoms, they need to avoid close contact with the very youngest of children.”

He adds that right now is the best time to get your COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t gotten it already, but getting your flu shot can wait. “The protection you want from the flu vaccine, it would be best to wait until it’s closer to when the flu is going to arrive here to get that protection.”

Lastly, he says if you feel sick, your first call should be to your primary care provider. Doctors say when it comes to allergies, antihistamines can be very effective. Monoclonal antibody infusions are also effective for people who find themselves with COVID-19, are at high risk, and older than 12.

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