The COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the world with uncertainty. The healthcare system in India is trying hard to stand strong amid the surmountable pressure that it is being subjected to, due to the rising cases. Adding to this, the monsoon also brings with it a host of diseases, common cold, cough and flu amongst others. These respiratory ailments can often be mistaken for the coronavirus infection and other respiratory diseases due to overlapping symptoms. This also puts an additional burden on the health infrastructure, with people flocking to hospitals and diagnostic centres for testing. People are grappling with the fear of uncertainty; every bout of sneeze, cough and throat irritation creates panic and raises doubts of being infected with coronavirus.
Due to the seasonal changes, rains, indoor pollution and various other reasons, people are more prone to allergies, common cold, influenza and other illnesses during this period. There is an increased need to understand and identify these various illnesses to avoid unnecessary panic and seek timely medical intervention.
But how do we differentiate seasonal allergies from COVID-19, common cold and flu? Dr Sanjay Sachdeva Director, ENT for Head and Neck Surgery, Max Healthcare Limited, New Delhi suggests these 5 symptoms that distinguish Seasonal allergies from COVID-19, common cold and flu:
Respiratory allergies generally have chronic symptoms that include bouts of sneezing, wheezing which tend to last for several weeks while the main symptoms of the novel coronavirus are fever, tiredness, cough, and shortness of breath.
— Allergic Rhinitis is a major chronic respiratory disease caused due to irritation and inflammation of the membranes lining the nose. This is mainly characterised by watery and itchy eyes, blocked nose, lethargy, and sleep disturbances.
— Cough is a symptom of Allergy only if it is associated with Bronchial Asthma while Fever, shortness of breath and cough defines the symptoms of COVID-19.
— Allergies can last up to months while a common cold or flu usually lasts for 7-14 days.
— Fever, body aches and pains are not usually observed in cases of seasonal allergies.
This chart from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology helpful in understanding and identifying your symptoms. However, it is advised to check with your doctor to ensure accurate diagnosis.
People with existing respiratory conditions should take extra precautions to prioritise their respiratory health. Lifestyle changes are essential with breathing exercises that strengthen lungs. Avoid exposure to pollutants as much as possible and masks are to be worn at all times while stepping outside. Indoor air quality should be given importance since most of our days are spent indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Improve indoor air quality by maintaining proper air circulation, keeping moisture in check to 40% moisture and ensuring cross ventilation. Eating healthy foods rich in antioxidants will contribute.
Getting your allergies treated at an early stage will prevent complications and chronic health conditions will help in the long run.