Cough, red eyes and runny nose… Covid-19 fault, flu or pollen allergies?

Cough, red eyes and runny nose… Covid-19 fault, flu or pollen allergies?


It’s nice, the temperatures are mild and as every year, spring has taken pollens out of its bag, which tickle the nostrils of people with allergies. About 50 departments are currently on red alert birch pollen, very allergenic. At the same time, contamination figures at coronavirus remain very high, and the epidemic of seasonal fluusually completed at this time of year, plays overtime after a late start.

Viruses and allergies circulating simultaneously

This spring of 2022 is full of good reasons to blow your mind. “The good weather and mild weather this week will help disperse pollen, especially birch.” As a result, the risk of allergies will be high in much of northern France, ”he said National Aerobiological Surveillance Network (RNSA).

And as spring allergies begin, the Covid-19 pandemic continues as a result of the highly contagious sub-variant BA.2 of Omicron, with “more than 135,000 new cases diagnosed on average per day,” says Public Health France in its latest epidemiological bulletin.

At the same time the flu epidemic Seasonal, late this year, is still not over. While it is “stable in seven regions, and declining in Brittany, it is increasing in five regions (Center-Val-de-Loire, Ile-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Pays-de-la-Loire ) ”, Continues Public Health France.

Common symptoms but different triggers

The numbers show that, a month after the end of mandatory wearing of mask in enclosed public places (except public transport), viral contamination and allergic manifestations. But “while some symptoms are common, the triggering situations are different,” he explains 20 minutes Sophie Silcret-Grieu, allergist. The symptoms of birch pollen allergy are those of all respiratory allergies (birch or grass pollen, dust or cat hair). The best known is rhinitis, which is manifested by sneezing, a stuffy, itchy runny nose, a scratchy throat, or even ears, she describes. This is often associated with conjunctivitis, especially for tree pollens which, in addition to being allergenic, are irritating: their eyes are red, watery and scratchy. All this gives rhinoconjunctivitis, or hay fever. And if the symptoms worsen, it can cause a cough, and even asthma if you have a predisposition. It can then take the form of a dry cough, or even a real asthma attack with severe respiratory distress and wheezing.

Runny nose, red eyes and cough: Symptoms that may also occur with Covid-19 or seasonal flu. However, “allergy symptoms are characteristic in that they occur every year at the same time, in March-April, and are of varying intensity depending on the climate: the more beautiful and dry it is, the more the symptoms are severe, because the trees then release more pollen, the allergist continues. Allergic patients are well aware of the associated signs. ”

Coronavirus and seasonal flu, on the other hand, have “evocative symptoms – fever, aches and pains, severe fatigue, headaches, cough – which suggest that you are dealing with a respiratory virus,” adds Dr. Silcret-Grieu. Obviously, in case of loss of taste and smell, the diagnosis will be on the coronavirus side. Ditto if you have Covid cases around you. In any case, a screening test will shed light on the contracted virus. On the other hand, the peculiarity at the moment is that you can have everything: be allergic to birch and get Covid-19 or the flu.

Masks and rigorous ventilation

So, for protect yourself from allergies to pollens like viruses, a few reflexes can work in all cases. If wearing the mask indoors has been proven against Covid-19 and the flu, “wearing it outdoors limits the passage of pollen directly into the nose,” adds the allergist. Many patients say that it helps to limit nasal symptoms. Washing your nose with sea water also protects ”. A gesture that dislodges pollens, but also mucus and bacteria. In addition, “rinsing your face with water and brushing your hair when you get home keeps you from getting pollen in bed” and hinders sleep, says Dr. Silcret-Grieu.

For allergy sufferers, “in acute situations, it is recommended to take antihistamines,” advises the allergist. And if the symptoms return every year, it is necessary to consult, to take stock and, if necessary, to set up a desensitization ”. Finally, “if there is no cross-protection between these pathologies, they have in common that they generate inflammation of the airways and covid as well,” recalls Dr. Silcret-Grieu. It is known that patients who have had Covid-19 may have destabilized respiratory function, and asthmatics and allergy sufferers may experience an increase in their asthma for a few weeks after contracting the coronavirus. ”

So, in order to breathe air that is less loaded with pollen and microbes, ventilation is essential. But if it is recommended to regularly ventilate enclosed spaces to protect against Covid-19 and influenza against pollen, it is best to open the windows “early in the morning or late in the evening,” recommends the RNSA, at times of the day when there is the least pollen in the air.

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