Don’t confuse hay fever with coronavirus, warns Leeds GP

Warmer weather and nature in full bloom marks the beginning of summer.  While most of us welcome the change of seasons, even in lockdown, for people with hay fever, this can be a miserable time.

This year, the hay fever season coincides with COVID-19, and the Royal College of General Practitioners is warning people not to mix up the symptoms of coronavirus with hay fever.

Dr Gordon Sinclair, Clinical Chair of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and a GP in Headingley, explains why it’s important for people to understand the difference between the symptoms:

“We don’t want people to get unduly anxious about their hay fever. However, we also want to make sure that they don’t go out and about, assuming they have their usual allergies, when they may actually have coronavirus and should stay at home.

“The main symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss of smell or taste. People may also feel quite unwell.

“While the symptoms of coronavirus and hay fever can overlap, people with hay fever don’t experience a high temperature and most won’t feel unwell.

“Hay fever and allergy symptoms tend to be milder, for example, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing. Symptoms  may vary over the course of the day or depending on the weather, as the pollen count changes. They can also usually be controlled through antihistamines or nasal sprays.

“If you have any new cough, fever, lose your sense of taste or smell, you must self-isolate as these could be signs of coronavirus. Most people can manage their symptoms at home with paracetamol and plenty of fluids. However, if you feel worse, you should use the NHS 111 checker – https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/ or call NHS 111.

Most importantly, don’t go directly to your GP practice, pharmacy or hospital if you think you have coronavirus. Always go through 111 first.”

People with hay fever can still get medical advice and treatment during the pandemic. You can visit your local pharmacy for over the counter remedies. If your symptoms don’t improve, you can also contact your GP practice.

Common coronavirus symptoms

  • high temperature
  • new, continuous cough
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

There’s more information at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Typical hay fever symptoms

  • sneezing and coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • loss of smell
  • pain around your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

There’s more information, including advice on how to manage symptoms at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/

You can also download our handy leaflet