You may have asked this question a few times to yourself in the past year that we have endured a pandemic. While one can get allergy almost all year round, spring season is most known to trigger allergies, and you might find yourself googling whether your symptoms are that of COVID or are merely allergies.
What are the sources of allergies?
Major sources of allergen in this subcontinent are the pollen grains, fungal spores, foods, insects, and dust mites. Rising temperatures and higher CO2 levels have also resulted in an increase in the pollination cycle of weeds, thereby increasing the pollen load in the air. Additionally, the tropical and subtropical climatic conditions of India along with high humidity are favourable for the growth and propagation of microbes like moulds, which can exacerbate allergy if the mould growth is indoors.
During spring, outdoor ambient allergens like pollen and fungal spores are more prevalent. Pollen grains released by trees, grasses, and weeds and carried by the air to fertilise other plants this time of the year. Growth of fungus spores is encouraged due to the environment turning warm and moist.
Why do we get allergies?
When someone who is allergic comes in contact with an allergen (an allergy causing substance), the immune system responds to it by releasing antibodies that are meant to attack the allergens. This leads to a release of chemicals in the blood called histamines which can trigger runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, itchy sinuses, throat, ear canal etc.
So is it COVID or is it allergies?
You need to check the duration for which your symptoms last.
Covid symptoms have been characterised by the loss of taste and smell in the past, while being accompanied by pollen and mold allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, atopic asthma and shortness of breath. The symptoms reported by the patients of newer strain include itchy throat, runny nose or flu like symptoms often accompanied with fever.
Allergy symptoms on the other hand continue with exposure to the allergen, or sometimes gets triggered during certain times of the day. If it were COVID, the symptoms will persist regardless of the time of the day or even in the absence of an allergy inducing substance.
How to stay protected from allergens, be it mold or pollen?
The best way to protect yourself from these allergens is to stay away from them.
Keeping windows closed when it is especially windy can help you stay protected from pollen grains.
Wearing a mask is recommended whenever going out to protect yourself from allergens as well as to stop the spread of coronavirus
Pollen counts are usually highest during late morning and early afternoon, so avoid going outdoors then
Change your clothes whenever you come back and wash them frequently. Avoid drying them outside to protect them from trapping pollen grains in the fabric.
If the symptoms of the allergy persist, consult a doctor right away to seek proper medication.