- Nurse's Tips
Allergies? A Cold? Or COVID?
I need only to look outside at the fine layer of yellow dust covering everything to know that spring allergy season has definitely arrived. Some of you who know my work history know that I spent several years working at an allergy & asthma practice before our family moved to Houston; every year, I’m so glad to have this experience in my back pocket. I’m writing today with some tips on helping with seasonal allergies, and how allergies and other common conditions may relate to our current COVID-19 environment.
Know your allergies!
- Especially with children, as we’re learning what they may be allergic to, it’s good to check in with your child’s pediatrician or allergist to understand their triggers, what treatments may work best, and to rule out other causes for their symptoms.
- Check local pollen counts. The Houston Health Department has a helpful website, and there are many apps available with pollen trackers, notifications, and even logs to track your symptoms.
Avoid excess pollen exposure.
- When pollen counts are high, it’s best to avoid too much time outside, especially on dry, windy days. A good rain can help wash away pollen.
- Wearing a brimmed hat can help keep pollen out of your hair and off your face; just make sure to take it off once you’re back inside.
- After spending time outside, wash your hands with soap and water, then rinse your face well. You can also rinse your nose and sinuses with a saline spray or neti pot.
- If your symptoms are severe, leave your shoes at the door, and take a shower and change clothes as soon as you get home, or at least before going to bed.
- Remember our pets can bring pollen in as well, so try to keep them clean after outdoor play. Do not allow pets inside bedrooms of those with pollen (or pet dander!) allergies since this is where we spend 8-12 hours every night.
- In the car, keep your windows closed and your A/C on the recycled air setting. This helps prevent extra pollen from entering the vehicle. If your vehicle has a cabin air filter, make sure it is clean and replaced when needed.
- Similarly, keep your windows at home closed, and make sure your A/C filters are changed regularly.
What about masks?
- Good news! The face masks we’re all wearing now, especially those with higher filtration, can also add a layer of protection from the pollen. However, it’s important to remove and change into a clean one once you’re back inside so the pollen-covered mask is not causing problems.
- We encourage all kids to have a few back-up masks right now, but if your child has allergies, talk with them about changing “inside” and “outside” masks for recess.
Understand treatment options.
- When saline spray is not enough, there are many medication options for allergies, including daily antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eyedrops. As with all medicine, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully.
- A call or appointment with your child’s pediatrician or allergist is always a good choice when trying to make medicine decisions. This is especially important if your child takes other medications or has other medical issues.
How does COVID-19 change things?
- I look forward to the day when COVID is not part of our daily conversation, but for now, we know we need to be diligent.
- Many symptoms of allergies and covid overlap. Children in particular tend to have milder symptoms with COVID, with many experiencing only a mild stuffy nose or scratchy throat.
- Even if your child has a history of allergies, it may be necessary to get a PCR covid test to ensure their current symptoms are not caused by COVID.
- I strongly recommend treating allergy symptoms promptly and regularly as your child’s doctor recommends so that you will know if something is out of the ordinary.
- It’s also important to note that “normal” germs and other chronic conditions are always a possibility as well. COVID symptoms overlap with several conditions.
- If your child’s symptoms are not typical for their allergies, if you’re unsure, or if they are not responding to their usual treatments, please plan to get a PCR covid test, and consider a doctor visit to rule out strep throat, flu, or other common illnesses.
- Remember: What looks like “just a cold or allergies” may be COVID, and the only way to know is with a test!
As always, if you have any questions about your child’s health, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Wishing you well!
Sarah Beckmann, BSN, RN