The arrival of spring has brought mild temperatures to several Italian cities and the flowering of many plants has released pollen into the air. In allergy sufferers, the circulation of pollen can trigger the typical symptoms of redness of the eyes, conjunctivitis, swelling of the eyelids, tearing, but also sneezing, nasal congestion, and coughing.

These symptom characteristics of allergies are also attributable to COVID-19, the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 disease, and therefore may give rise to concern about having contracted the coronavirus.

As explained by Professor Giorgio Walter Canonica, Head of the Centre for Personalized Medicine, Asthma and Allergology at Humanitas, and lecturer at Humanitas University, attention must be paid to the symptoms to distinguish the two disorders.

Attention to symptoms

“One of the suspicious symptoms of the coronavirus is fever, which is absent in allergic manifestations. In addition, allergic rhinitis should be more easily distinguishable from viral rhinitis because sneezing is usually a blunt (i.e. a flurry), the nose is very runny (a less common symptom in patients with COVID-19) and rhinitis can be associated with conjunctivitis (which is quite common in the new coronavirus disease)”, explains Prof. Canonica.

What to do in case of symptoms?

“It is good practice that pollen allergy patients who experience coughs and colds should start the therapy prescribed by the allergist with antihistamines and inhaled corticosteroids in order to reduce the symptoms. If after 4-5 days of therapy the symptoms do not subside, you may think that you have contracted COVID-19 in a mild form. If you do not have a fever and in that case, you should contact your family doctor or contact the regional toll-free numbers.

Allergy to pollen may also occur for the first time (also because it can occur at any age), so if you have a cough or cold that makes you suspect a respiratory allergy, you should consult your doctor who can make a diagnosis and indicate an appropriate treatment. With the correct drug therapy, allergic disorders regress within a few days, while infectious forms remain. Finally, I recommend that patients who are undergoing continuous treatment for asthma should not discontinue their therapy,” concluded Professor Canonica.