March 10, 2020

Video: Is it Allergies, COVID-19, or Something Else?

A Message From Dr. Chris Thompson, Chief Medical Officer on Allergies and Illnesses Like COVID-19

Dr. Chris Thompson discusses the symptoms and differences between allergies and the seasonal flu, a cold, or other viruses.

Transcript: We've had a lot of patients come in with some confusion what their symptoms mean, and its natural because theres a lot of cross over between allergy symptoms and COVD-19, especially early on. Everyone knows with allergies you're going to get runny nose, sneezing and coughing, which is hallmarks of both symptoms of allergies and COVID-19. COVID-19 you're ultimately gong to experience fever and usually body aches, although most patients are experiencing a very mild form of it when they do get it.

We've gotten a lot of questions about the timeline and how the symptoms progress when you have COVID-19, or the flu, or allergies. Allergies tend to hit really quick, as soon as the pollen is in the air, you're going to have symptoms -- literally within hours. With the flu, and with COVID-19, there's typically an incubation period, so the virus enters your body and then it starts multiplying and you don't have any symptoms. And with COVID-19 that's typically 3-5 days or so before you start to get sick.

The most common symptoms of allergies due to pollen or mold in the air, are going to be nasal congestion, nasal discharge -- either drainage out of the front of your nose or post-nasal drainage -- you'll often have itchy watery eyes, and sneezing is another common symptom, and cough is frequently associated with allergies. IF you have have allergy-induced asthma, you'll have more coughing, especially at nighttime, or maybe some shortness of breath especially with exercise.

So really once you start to get fever or significant body aches, that is not an allergic disease. So that's going to be your differentiator: that will tell you that you have something infectious, something like the flu, something like COVID-19, or even a sinus infection will possibly give you fever. But if you have those symptoms, you should get tested so that you know. Not that you're going to be in need of any significant medical care, because most of the episodes of COVID-19 are mild, but it's good to know and then also you obviously you want to self-quarantine if you had it so you don't spread it.

So you've heard this probably many times on the news: hand washing with soap is highly recommended, not just now but all times, especially in the flu season. The allergic population is obviously enormous, and in the US there are probably 50 millions allergy sufferers. And with 50 million sufferers, you would think we would be treating a large proportion but what's really sad is that less than 2% of people suffering with allergies get disease-changing therapy. Everybody else is taking their antihistamines, gobbling up the over-the-counter medications as opposed to really treating it.

Relative to what we're seeing with COVID-19, at least for now [March 2020], the odds are heavily in favor of you probably having allergies, especially since it's peak allergy season.

The way we look at it is, allergies are lifelong and the COVID issue, although it's very concerning, is transient. It's going to be gone at some point, and you're going to be left with allergies for the rest of your life. Our patients and all patients with allergies face a choice: do I take pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life, or do I try to find a solution to the problem? And that's what we offer. We get very excited about treating allergies because they make people miserable, and we offer treatments that are going to really fix the underlying problem.

When our patients or new patients call in and have symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 or even the flu, what we can do is set yup a telemedicine visit so that one of our providers can visit with you electronically and talk about your symptoms. Usually just with some discussion we can figure out what is most likely [the cause]. Allergies are lifelong, and if you want to mitigate those, get rid of them, then the sooner you do that, the more years you have of an allergy-free life.

Symptoms of allergies, the common cold, and COVID-19 share some overlap -- but also significant differences.

*For up-to-date information on COIVD-19, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/covid19

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About The Author:

Chris Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson focuses solely on allergy, sinus and nasal treatment and is considered an expert in all three fields. He is one of a handful of doctors that played an integral role in the development of the cutting-edge sinus procedure, Balloon Sinuplasty.