Allergy season is upon us and for those who annually get sniffles and sneezes it's time to be prepared, said Dr. Peter Capucilli, an allergist with Rochester Regional Health, during a call with reporters on Wednesday.
"The first thing is just making sure that your prescriptions are up to date, that you have refills on the medications that you know will help you," Capucilli said. "I usually like to tell my patients that starting right after Valentine's Day, that's a really good marker of when to say, OK, now is the time to get prepared and start having those medications available just because we know allergy season can hit really hard and quickly when the trees start to drop all their pollen."
There are predictions that this could be a severe allergy season given the weather patterns of the winter and early spring and the general trend of global warming and Capucilli said those predictions have a strong possibility of coming true.
"We very well could see a higher pollen count this season," he said.
While people with severe allergies need to wear masks while doing things like mowing the lawn, Capucilli said don't expect those face coverings you've been wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19 to do much to protect you from pollen, which doesn't know anything about social distancing and is therefore always around all of us.
"I anticipate that overall the allergens will make their way into affecting us," he said. "I do feel like we'll still have a significant allergy season. We are already starting to see the beginnings of that now as we're getting into early April."
It's important, Capucilli said, for people to distinguish between the symptoms of COVID-19 and allergies.
"Symptoms that are usually specific to allergy are things like itchy nose, sneezing, and certainly you can have those symptoms with COVID," Capucilli said. "I would say if you're having any of those things, and especially if you haven't been an allergic individual previously, it's probably better to be thorough and get tested to speak to your doctor if you have concerns that you're having new symptoms.
"The other symptoms that would probably tip you off in terms of being a bit more worried about COVID versus allergies are actually feeling sick. So generally, for patients who have allergies, the symptoms can be quite invasive but you don't feel like you necessarily are sick with a cold or that you're under the weather. Fevers would also be very atypical of allergy. You should not be getting fevers with allergies."
If you have any doubts, suggests Capucilli, you should get tested for COVID-19.
For those with allergies, it's fine to seek out the help of a specialist even if over-the-counter medications help your symptoms. You don't need serious symptoms to consult with a doctor. In some cases, Capucilli said, the best treatment might come in the form of a shot.
"The goal of that therapy is to actually make you less allergic," Capucilli said. "So some patients may be well controlled on over-the-counter therapies like antihistamines or the nasal sprays, which we prefer using often. The benefit of the allergy shots is that over time we desensitize you. We essentially reprogram the immune system to become tolerant of these allergens with a lasting effect."