Allergies Or COVID-19?

As spring allergies begin to ramp up, how do you know if it’s allergies or coronavirus? A UPMC pediatric allergist has more with KDKA's Meghan Schiller.

Video Transcript

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Spring kicks off on Saturday, and with it, seasonal allergies; coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing. But as coronavirus continues to spread, how can you tell whether you really just have allergies or you have the virus?

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you. Thank you for joining us tonight at 7:30. I'm Megan Schiller. We're going to be talking all about the symptoms and how to spot the differences tonight. Joining me now live over Zoom is pediatric allergist at UPMC Children's Hospital, Dr. Ally Larkin. Dr. Larkin, how often are you hearing this question these days?

ALLY LARKIN: We are hearing this question quite frequently. It's spring. It feels like spring. And our families and our patients are definitely asking us these questions.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Can we talk first about the overlapping symptoms that cause the confusion?

ALLY LARKIN: Sure. There's a big overlap with this clinical presentation between allergic rhinitis and COVID symptoms. Things that both may share are symptoms like cough, and fatigue, and maybe headache. But as most of us know, there's actually a lot that makes them quite different. That's very helpful when we're thinking about the subject you're talking about.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: How many are there that are different?

ALLY LARKIN: So if we're concerned that what's going on is COVID related, we're going to see more things like fever. Fever is definitely something that we're not going to be too worried about from an allergic rhinitis allergy standpoint. If there's fever going on in the setting of something like coughing, or stuffy nose, or body aches along with nausea, or vomiting, or diarrhea, this is a time to be worried about COVID and to definitely think about COVID testing.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: In your opinion, are we better equipped this year to spot and determine between the two in comparison to last year?

ALLY LARKIN: I think we've all learned a lot over the past year. And I think our testing has been more available. And so if those symptoms are going on, it makes a lot of sense to talk to your provider about getting a COVID test and not thinking that it's just allergies.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: How many people do you have now that are just requesting virtual appointments? Like, is this something that you'd be able to talk to just over the computer, or talk about over the computer?

ALLY LARKIN: Absolutely. It's a great consult for us to do, either in the office or on virtual appointments. And we can definitely help sort out those differences with patients and their families.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Do you know how long it will take until we know if the allergies are worse this year than in years past?

ALLY LARKIN: I know. I was looking to see if we've started pollen counting, and we've got tree pollen out. And I think soon we'll know how everybody's feeling. But the tree pollen counts are starting, and folks are getting sneezy and itchy. These are more allergy related symptoms as distinguished from the fever or the malaise from COVID symptoms.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Yeah, it's always the most exciting part of the year, but also the part of the year that requires the most tissues. So Dr. Larkin, thank you for your time tonight.

ALLY LARKIN: Absolutely. Thank you.