Spring has sprung and brought along its myriad of colourful flowers and mesmerising beauty. But, despite the charming atmosphere, many allergy sufferers are doing just that… suffering. The impending possibility of catching Covid-19 has doubled concerns in September 2020.
Research indicates that while symptoms may be relatively mild, conditions need to be taken seriously so as to ensure the appropriate treatment. Extreme cases can result in anaphylactic shock and even death. Around 20% of South Africans are estimated to suffer from “allergic rhinitis”, or what we call Hayfever.
This Spring, South Africans have expressed concern that their allergies may make them more susceptible to Covid-19 as several symptoms overlap. Head of UCT Lung Institute’s Allergy and Immunology Unit Professor Jonny Peter, however, allayed these fears and said the two do not appear to be closely related.
“Some people make the allergic anti-body Keratin IGE and its directed at things in the atmosphere that should be harmless. In the seasonal times, we’re talking about pollen, as well as dust mites or moulds etc. This gives some people the symptoms of an allergic reaction such as runny nose, itchiness and you can get sinus infections etc,” explained Peter.
Key similarities, Peter explained, are mostly nasal-related and include being blocked up, having a runny nose, post-nasal drip or a scratchy throat or itchy eyes, nose and throat.
With the coronavirus, however, symptoms include fever, muscle aches and headaches “which are less common in pure allergic reactions”, he said.
“Although there is an overlap, there was a lovely study done where they took people with allergies that got Covid-19 and more than 80% said that these two conditions were completely different. They could tell they were just having their seasonal allergies and when they were having a more severe infection,” he said.
Another common, yet less frequent, allergy is asthma which is triggered by similar conditions.
“In winter, normally we see lots of respiratory viruses that trigger asthma attacks and one of the things that coronavirus doesn’t seem to do really, is trigger asthma,” he said.
“Looking at severe COVID-19 cases, we actually do not see an over-representation of asthma in comparison to things like Diabetes, hypertension and age. We don’t think COVID-19 is linked to allergic disease and allergy sufferers are not at increased risk of developing COVID-19,” added Peter.
According to Peter, global data has also suggested that a dramatic increase in pollen intensity will be experienced within the next decade, making allergy seasons longer.
“Local meteorological conditions probably play the biggest role. But, and we flagged this before, we are seeing slightly longer seasons and slightly more intense pollen feeds,” he said.
Peter added that the compulsory wearing of a mask will fare well for allergy sufferers as the covering of the nose and mouth prevents pollen granules from entering. He further urged the public to pay special attention to the weekly pollen count, available on the website: www.pollencount.co.za.
“What we would recommend pay attention to the pollen count. Then, when those hot, windy days come and pollen levels are high, people should be aware of that in terms of taking their meds and curbing their outdoor activities particularly if they suffer very badly.”
Peter noted several effective treatment methods including nasal sprays or inhalers before the season kicks in or over-the-counter antihistamines.