Sneezing – is it Hay Fever, or could it be a symptom of Covid-19?
Sneezing often happens with viral colds. It is not a common symptom of Covid-19, but it can occur. The tree pollen count is now rising fast, so lots of people are beginning to get symptoms. Can you tell the difference between Hay Fever due to tree pollen allergy and a viral infection?
If you have a high temperature it is not pollen allergy. Despite its name, Hay Fever does not give you a fever.
Taking an antihistamine will improve allergy symptoms quickly, so this is a simple way to check whether you could have an allergy. A steroid nose spray (e.g. beclomethasone or fluticasone) is also a very good treatment.
Itching is a prominent symptom in allergies, which doesn’t happen much with viral infections. So if you have itchy nose and eyes (in addition to feeling blocked up and streaming), that’s more likely to be Hay Fever.
A dry cough can occur with Hay Fever as well as with viral infections like Covid-19. Other symptoms like loss of sense of smell and feeling fluey can also occur with both conditions.
So it can be hard to tell the difference, but hopefully these simple tips will help. (By the way, the picture is a pollen grain, not a virus)
About 30 staff attended a lunchtime drop-in hay fever clinic, delivered by the Allergy team during Allergy Awareness week. Allergy nurses and doctors provided a free assessment of symptoms and advice on how to get the most out of over-the-counter medications, together with other tips to help staff stay well during high pollen counts. Feedback was very positive, with most staff saying they will make big changes to how they manage their hay fever this year. Some staff thought that a short talk or presentation would be helpful so we’ll bear this in mind for next year.
This year the Allergy Team is again providing a drop-in service for hospital staff who get hay fever. The clinics run from 23rd to 27th April (except Thursday) from 12-1 outside the staff canteen in the Heartlands Education Centre.
It seems early to be worrying about this, but many people start to sniff and sneeze even in March, when tree pollen arrives. Also, treatment for grass pollen allergy should start a few weeks before you expect to get symptoms. So if you get bad hay fever, get advice early, and stock up on your hay fever treatments now.
Twenty Trust staff members should be able to enjoy the outdoors more this summer. They attended our free drop-in sessions at Heartlands, Good Hope and the Chest Clinic, and got free advice about managing their hay fever symptoms.
We were delighted to get feedback that most felt they had learned a lot and would make big changes to the way they treat their hay fever this year. One staff member even planned to ask his GP about getting referred for immunotherapy.
Now get out there and enjoy the sunny weather!
The Allergy team is offering free advice to hay fever sufferers working at Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals and the Chest Clinic.
It may seem a bit early to be thinking about hay fever (although if you are allergic to tree pollens you may be getting symptoms already). Grass pollen counts don’t really get going until May, but people with severe hay fever need to be prepared for this beforehand.
Hospital staff can drop in to a free advice clinic on the following dates:
- Heartlands Tues 2nd May 12.00 – 13.15 outside lecture theatre
- Heartlands Wed 3rd May 12.00 – 13.15 outside lecture theatre
- Good Hope Thurs 4th May 13.00 – 14.00 main corridor outside X-ray
- Heartlands Friday 5th May 12.00 – 13.15 outside lecture theatre
- Chest Clinic Mon 8th May 12.45 – 13.30
“Patient-centered care is what you deliver”
“One of the most advanced comprehensive Allergy Services in the UK”
The compliments flowed when the West Midlands Allergy Centre was inspected by the IQAS team on the 14th September. In the first inspection of its kind in the UK, the allergy service at HEFT was awarded full accreditation for providing a safe, effective and evidence-based service.
Patient feedback was an important part of the assessment, and some patients came in person to give the inspectors their views on the service that they had from the allergy team.
Dr Krishna who leads the team said “I am delighted that the first allergy service has achieved IQAS accreditation following a stringent independent assessment by a very experienced team, and am pleased that it has been my centre to do this”.
You can see more details of the inspection at the IQAS website.
Patients with anaphylaxis and their family and carers will have a new opportunity to meet others with the same problem. The Anaphylaxis Campaign, a UK support group, has established a new local group in Birmingham. Their first meeting will be at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Wednesday 8th June 6.30pm at the Innovation Hub meeting room.
You can find details at the Anaphylaxis Campaign website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this time of year sneezing and sniffles could just be a cold. But in some people these symptoms are actually caused by allergies to tree pollens.
From now until late April trees are shedding their pollen to the wind, causing some people misery with allergy symptoms. The treatments are the same as for grass pollen allergies (“hay fever”) – have a look at our information about immunotherapy, which is an effective treatment for some sufferers.
The West Midlands Allergy Centre based at HEFT is a “robust, quality clinical service”, according to an inspection by the IQAS team from the Royal College of Physicians. Debbie Johnston, who led the inspection, praised the teamwork and leadership, and was impressed by patient feedback and evidence of good communication. The inspection team specially commented on the fantastic nursing team, and the quality of the clinical management and facilities.
The Allergy Centre was inspected as a pilot site for the new IQAS (Improving Quality in Allergy Services) accreditation scheme. Dr Krishna, who leads the HEFT service, said “I am very proud of the Allergy team that has got this fantastic result. We are well on our way to the full accreditation inspection, which we are planning for early next year”.
It is peak grass pollen season, and lots of people are sneezing, wheezing and rubbing their eyes.
For most people hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is a mild condition that is little more than a nuisance and can be controlled with an antihistamine. For some it makes summer a misery.
People with severe hay fever may dread outdoor activities like sports or picnics. Sitting inside with the windows closed is no fun in this weather. Hay fever can also severely affect concentration at work and at school (not a good thing during your GCSEs).
1. Only use non-drowsy antihistamines (cetirizine, loratidine and acrivastine*)
2. Use a steroid nose spray daily (beclometasone and fluticasone sprays*)
3. Try to avoid using decongestants regularly – they are fine to use occasionally, but can make rhinitis worse if used often.
4. Pollen avoidance can help:
- Wash hair before bed so that the pollen in your hair doesn’t get on the pillow.
- Get the washing in before the pollen begins to settle in the evening.
- Wear wrap around sunglasses to stop pollen getting into the eyes.
- A little Vaseline around the inside of your nostrils can trap some of the pollen.
- Saline rinses can wash some of the pollen out of your nose after you’ve been out.
For severe hay fever, immunotherapy (hay fever injections or tablets) can help to control symptoms – it’s too late to start this year, but ask your GP about referring you to our immunotherapy clinic (or other local allergy clinic) to see if this would be suitable for you for next season.
Lots more advice is available from allergy websites such as Allergy UK’s.
*Available without prescription, but do check with your chemist if you are taking other medications
See today’s Met Office Pollen Forecast