Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and birds are returning to our backyard feeders. As we welcome warmer weather and start to spend more time outside, pollen is beginning to spread, triggering seasonal allergies. If your child has a cough, a sore throat, or a runny nose, you may wonder: Is it allergies or could it be COVID-19? Understanding the difference will help you and your family stay healthy this allergy season.  

Listening to the Symptoms

COVID-19 and seasonal allergies have different causes but can share symptoms. Nasal congestion, shortness of breath, tiredness, and lack of taste or smell can be symptoms of either seasonal allergies or COVID-19. It is important to understand the differences. COVID-19 is a contagious viral infection that attacks the upper respiratory system and usually produces a dry cough accompanied by fever, muscle aches, and a sore throat. Seasonal allergies are an immune response triggered by allergens such as tree or grass pollen. Allergies are not contagious and usually cause sneezing, watery eyes, and itchiness in the eyes, nose, and throat. These are not typical symptoms of COVID-19. Asthma is shared risk factor and can cause some of the more severe symptoms associated with COVID-19 and seasonal allergies, including shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest.

Managing Allergy Symptoms

If your child has allergies, your doctor may recommend allergy medication to manage symptoms. Common allergy treatments include over-the-counter antihistamines to block the body’s response to allergens, prescribed nasal corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and if your child has asthma, a rescue inhaler to open airway passages.

Allergies and Illness Co-Exist

Children with seasonal allergies are at higher risk of getting sick. Nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies can make it difficult to clear germs from the nose, allowing viruses to linger. If your child has allergies and starts to experience new symptoms, it is important to call their primary care provider.

Allergies and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Seasonal allergies do not disqualify your child from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, even if they are receiving allergy immunotherapy. Peak Vista is offering vaccines, booster shots, and third doses by appointment, free of charge. IDs and insurance are not required, and you do not have to be a Peak Vista patient. A provider can discuss age guidelines and let you know when your child is due for the first full series or booster. Do your part. Protect yourself. Protect others. Get vaccinated!

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Joel Tanaka, MD
Senior Vice President, Health Equity & Community Education