Nurse’s Corner

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Is It Covid-19 or Allergies or Asthma? 

Video:  How well do masks work  

Please be reminded that you can contact the Sussex County Covid-19 Hotline Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm at 973-579-9488 to speak with a Sussex County Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) volunteer, or a Sussex County Division of Health (SCDOH) staff member any time you have any questions. I can also be reached at jaquino@newtonnj.org 

As the weather changes and the trees begin to spread their pollen, you may be wondering whether your respiratory symptoms are caused by allergies, asthma, or something more serious such as Covid-19? Here are some helpful ways to identify the warning signs of Covid-19 and what may necessitate a call to your child’s doctor.  

How do the symptoms of Covid-19 differ from the symptoms of spring allergies?

With a viral illness like Covid-19, there is typically a fever, but not so with allergies. Allergies to pollen cause sneezing and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and throat, which is less commonly seen with Covid-19. Cough is a common symptom of Covid-19, which can also be present in some patients with allergies. Sudden loss of smell or taste, without significant nasal symptoms, is a tell tale sign of Covid-19. Another difference between Covid-19 and spring allergies is that  allergy symptoms tend to wax and wane and get worse when you are outside. With Covid-19, there’s typically a steady worsening.

Symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19):

According to the CDC, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Covid-19 is spread through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact. We recommend following the CDC guidelines and those of your local health department to prevent the spread of the virus.

The following symptoms of Covid-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms Of Seasonal Allergies:

Symptoms of seasonal allergies range from mild to severe and occur seasonally. They are caused by a response in the immune system and are not contagious. Medications can treat symptoms.

MOST COMMON:

  • sneezing
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • watery and itchy eyes
  • itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
  • ear congestion
  • postnasal drainage

LEAST COMMON:

  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing

SERIOUS ALLERGIC REACTION SYMPTOMS:

  • skin rash/hives
  • throat closing/difficulty breathing/chest tightness
  • drop in blood pressure
  • diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis: a medical emergency

Several differences between Covid-19 and Allergies (important clues):

  • Covid-19 causes a system-wide response, such as a fever, body aches, chills, a sore throat, weakness, and respiratory symptoms. Allergies are more localized, causing symptoms centered around the nose, eyes, and throat, and usually no fever. 
  • Allergies cause itchiness: itchy eyes, itchy nose and sneezing, and a tickle in the throat. Itchiness is usually not a symptom of Covid-19.
  • Covid-19 doesn’t seem to cause much in the way of nasal symptoms. That means if your child is sneezing a lot, it’s more likely allergies, a cold, the flu, or another illness.
  • Children with allergies may also have asthma, which can cause wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. While many people with COVID-19 also have a cough and chest tightness or difficulty breathing, most don’t have wheezing

Do the symptoms of allergies and COVID-19 express themselves differently in children than in adults?

Children with allergies tend to be restless, while adults who have allergies are more fatigued. If a child is lethargic and feverish and has a persistent cough, with or without itchy eyes and a runny nose, then the pediatrician should be notified immediately. Although coughing and sore throat are symptoms noted in Covid-19, they are also noted in allergies (triggered by a reaction to pollen or grass) and asthma (coughing). 

Are people with allergies more susceptible to coronavirus than others are?

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that people with allergies to pollen are more susceptible to Covid-19. However, people with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and people with allergies don’t have a compromised immune system. Their allergies are an overreaction of the immune system.

Among those with some degree of asthma, those with worse disease tend to be in a higher-risk group for viral infections, particularly if the asthma is not well managed. So this is a good time to review the way you are managing your allergies and your asthma, if you have it. You and your doctor can go over the ways you are managing your condition and make any modifications if needed.

Asthma Symptoms/Why Asthma occurs:

Asthma occurs when airways become blocked temporarily or narrowed by exposure to an allergen. Irritants, strenuous exercise, anxiety, or other triggers can precipitate this. If an asthma attack is severe, a person may need emergency medical treatment. Viral infections like the flu and milder coronaviruses can trigger asthma episodes, so it’s important to manage these conditions and do all you can to protect your family from Covid-19.

ASTHMA SYMPTOMS:

  • sudden shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest tightness
  • wheezing/coughing

HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WITH ASTHMA: 

  • The most important thing you can do is make sure your child’s asthma is well controlled. None of the asthma medications, including inhaled corticosteroids and biologics, have been shown to increase the risk of getting Covid-19; none of them have been shown to interfere with Covid-19 treatments.
  • If you think there’s a chance that your child has Covid-19, have your child take asthma medications with an inhaler instead of a nebulizer. Nebulization could increase the release of viral particles from an infected person into the air. If a nebulizer must be used, choose a location that minimizes exposure to members of your household who aren’t infected, like a porch or patio, or in a garage. Nebulizers are not to be used in school at this time. 
  • To date, most cases of Covid-19 in children are mild. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Contact The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology if you have questions about the differences in symptoms of Covid-19 and allergies. 
  • Contact your child’s allergist if you have any questions, if your child is having trouble breathing, or their asthma symptoms are becoming more severe. 

Should we be worried about inhalers inadvertently spreading the virus by turning airborne droplets into a finer aerosol?

With any viral infection, doctors have to pay attention to the risk of aerosolization. But inhalers can be used safely by a patient, and they should be used when they are needed, whether you are at home or outside. If you have to use inhalers, however, it’s still very important to give extra distance when around other people.

A lot of people are using this time spent at home to spring clean. Any tips for those with spring allergies?

If your allergy is due to pollen, being inside may be helpful, and if spring cleaning makes you feel better, that’s a benefit. Do keep in mind that cleaning can kick up a lot of dust, so if you are allergic to indoor allergens, make sure to have adequate ventilation and keep that mask handy.

Please continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing even if you are vaccinated. These are sound practices. 

REMEMBER: prevention & recognition of Signs/Symptoms of Covid-19, allergies and asthma are imperative!  

Please watch: COVID-19 Stop the Spread of Germs Video

Please watch: Key Times to Wash Your Hands Video 

Sintomas del coronavirus

Continue to stay well, safe, and healthy!
Jill D. Aquino, RN, CSN, MSN 
School Nurse, Newton High School

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The following documents are for your use. 

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