Coping with Hay Fever and Asthma during the Coronavirus Pandemic

It is officially springtime in Britain and this means warm and sunny weather. Great for most, but havoc perhaps for 13 million people across the UK suffering with hay fever.

Those who have hay fever will typically experience one of a number of bothersome symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, sore and watering eyes – however these could be joined by a cough too.

Normally, this would be brushed aside and put up with until symptoms have eased with hay fever treatment such as with the use of a hay fever nasal spray or an antihistamine. However, with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this has understandably left many worried people that their symptoms could be a sign of something far more sinister.

There are certain ways to distinguish between hay fever and coronavirus. Hay fever symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and sneezing, none of which are known to be common symptoms of coronavirus.

Primary coronavirus symptoms include a fever and muscle aches and pains, which are not generally associated with hay fever. Also, hay fever sufferers may be able to recognise times of the year when they get symptoms. If you get hay fever symptoms say starting every March or April, and you have got similar symptoms again this year at those times, you are likely experiencing hay fever.

However, as high pollen counts have been recorded across the UK and we enter into peak hay fever season, it is vital now more than ever to manage your hay fever symptoms.

As hay fever symptoms can overlap with coronavirus symptoms, if you are coughing and sneezing due to hay fever, you are far more likely to pass on the virus to others if you do have it – particularly if you’re asymptomatic (not showing coronavirus symptoms) and don’t know you have coronavirus.

If all that wasn’t enough for hay fever sufferers to contend with, there is the added element of managing asthma. What if you suffer with both? Does one make the other worse?

Remember that hay fever is an allergic reaction to a certain pollen, and allergic reactions begin in your immune system. The immune system responds to the pollen, treating it as an ‘invader’ and subsequently producing histamine to combat the allergen.

The histamine’s job is basically to get rid of the thing that is bothering your body – the pollen!

However, in doing so, the histamine causes reactions such as blocked or runny nose, itching, sneezing, etc. For those who already have asthma, these hay fever symptoms can be tricky as the blocked nose can further hinder your breathing. Hay fever essentially causes your already inflamed airways to swell up even further, leading to potential breathing difficulties.

If you find that your hay fever symptoms are causing your asthma symptoms to worsen, such as experiencing a tight chest or shortness of breath, you must contact your own doctor as soon as possible.

The charity Asthma UK have also urged those who suffer from both hay fever and asthma, to make sure they start their regular hay fever medicines, to reduce the chance of hay fever triggering an asthma attack.

They add that if you have hay fever and get coronavirus, then you could be more at risk of both of them setting off your asthma symptoms, and are asking everyone with hay fever and asthma to:

  • Make sure you’re taking your asthma medicines as prescribed
  • Control your hay fever symptoms with your medicines
  • Take steps to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19 by staying at home.

Medical Specialists® hope you are all taking care of yourself and loved ones during these difficult times. Asthma UK have plenty of potentially life-saving advice on how to deal with hay fever with asthma during the coronavirus pandemic. The government have also published guidance for social distancing during the coronavirus, which includes useful information for those with certain health conditions and who may be at risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

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