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Local Medical Officials Say Fever Is Most Common Distinguisher Between COVID-19 and Seasonal Allergy

NYITCOM at A-State
Credit NYITCOM at A-State

This release from NYIT's College of Osteopathic Medicine at A-State.  

As spring reaches full bloom in the south, the beauty of budding plants also brings the yellowish powder that covers our cars and irritates our allergies.


Weather.com’s allergy tracker ranks pollen counts as “high to very high” throughout Arkansas and much of the Mid-South over the next week, which means many residents of this region are seeing or will soon experience their sinuses and respiratory systems respond as they typically do this time of year.


In the midst of a pandemic, those typical irritations have many people concerned that their body is reacting to COVID-19, not just the routine sinus issues that are common this time of year.


According to Shane Speights, DO, Dean of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, individuals who usually experience sinus irritation each spring shouldn’t be alarmed. 


“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” Speights said. “If you always get affected by seasonal allergies during this time and you’re having the same symptoms, that’s probably what it is.”


One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a high fever, which Speights said is not consistent with allergic reactions to pollen.  Muscle aches, fatigue and shortness of breath are also common of COVID-19 but not of the common cold that is often brought on by seasonal allergies.


“You shouldn’t run a fever with your allergies,” Speights said. “You shouldn’t have significant muscle aches or significant fatigue with your allergies. Typically, COVID-19 doesn’t cause sneezing. It can, but that’s not a typical sign or symptom we would see.”


Additionally, COVID-19 patients typically experience a “dry” cough as opposed to the “wet” caught that often comes with the congestion brought on by allergies.  A wet cough is characterized as one that produces mucus while a dry cough does not. 


Speights does caution that a sinus infection can bring on a fever that would require medical attention, but without experiencing that symptom, people should treat their allergies with antihistamines and other over-the-counter medications as they normally would.


Regardless, people should follow the precautions that have been repeatedly recommended to everyone in effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including regular and thorough hand washing, practicing social distancing, staying away from anyone who is sick or has been ill recently and avoiding touching the face.  


“It’s understandable that people would be concerned and confused,” Speights said.  “If you have a fever, you should contact your health care provider. Otherwise, continue to be diligent in your efforts to keep those around you healthy and address your allergies as you do most years.” ###

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