Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Society of Consultant Doctors (JKSCD) on Monday issued the advisory for pollen allergy during corona virus outbreak.
The pollen season is upon us and a large proportion of our population reports seasonal symptoms related to pollen, the most common of which include itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, persistent sneezing and in moderate to severe cases, wheezing and shortness of breath.
All these symptoms are usually referred to as hay fever, pollen allergy or in medical terms, allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is commonly associated with allergic asthma in both children and adults.
Pollen allergies, including mild allergic asthma have not been identified as a major risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection or, for a more unfavourable outcome in the studies available so far.
However, public should be aware that any moderate to severe asthma, irrespective of trigger, where patient needs daily treatment is included in the list of chronic lung conditions that predispose to severe SARS-CoV-2 disease and subsequent outcomes. As such, with the onset of pollen season.
Read advisories below;
1) Children and adults on maintenance medications for allergies such as inhaled corticosteroids and/or bronchodilators (inhalers), leukotriene inhibitors and/or antihistamines (allergy tablets) should continue their treatment as prescribed by their doctor and should not discontinue their medication for fear of COVID-19.
“It is very possible to have asymptomatic or almost asymptomatic COVID-19 and to mistake it for seasonal rhinitis/hay fever. Therefore, patients with hay fever should keep their symptoms under the best possible control and that means using intranasal corticosteroid inhalers and other medicines as prescribed by their doctor”. Dr Jehangeer further emphasised that these drugs are not contraindicated, infact there is strong scientific evidence that intranasal steroid use for hay fever improves nasal innate immunity.
“If someone with hay fever/pollen allergy develops symptoms compatible with COVID-19, they will need to self-isolate, inform their doctor and monitor their health as everyone else. If progressive breathing difficulty develops prompt medical assistance should be sought.”
2) Although the definitive diagnosis of COVID-19 is not clinical and can be confirmed only through laboratory testing, still, there are some clinical signs that can differentiate between hay fever/pollen allergy and COVID-19 infection; the term ‘hay fever’ is a misnomer as there is no fever in hay fever whereas fever, sometimes high-grade is common in COVID-19 infection.
Similarly, cough is rare in hay fever whereas there is a dry and persistent cough in COVID-19 cases. Fatigue and myalgia (muscle pain) are rarely encountered in hay fever whereas most patients with COVID-19 infection report severe fatigue and significant myalgia.
Also, symptoms of hay fever are relieved by over the counter anti-allergy tablets like antihistamines, leukotriene inhibitors, whereas COVID-19 symptoms do not respond to these over the counter cold medications.
3) If you start having pollen allergy there is no reason for you to self-isolate. However, please continue to follow the general guidance for physical distancing, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your face and see a doctor non-urgently. However, if symptoms get worse, or there is fever and/or progressive difficulty breathing seek urgent medical care.
Dr Masood Rashid Spokesperson JKSCD requests administration to provide free masks to all patients who seek medical advice in our health set-up but are not wearing one. It has now been scientifically confirmed that if both a COVID-19 positive patient and his/her casual contact are wearing a mask the risk of transmission of the virus is very low.
As such, the benefit of wearing a mask (even a homemade one) cannot be overemphasised especially now that evidence is forthcoming that many patients (upto 50% in some parts of world) with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic.