Coronavirus and hay fever symptoms: Key differences between the two conditions

Coronavirus symptoms include sneezing, coughing and shortness of breath – and hay fever sufferers may experience the same thing. How can you tell the difference between the two?

Tree and grass pollen – abundant in May – are the triggers for hay fever sufferers.

In people with pollen allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies harmless pollen as dangerous.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a cough, decreased sense of taste or smell, and conjunctivitis.


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Red, itchy and watery eyes – in hay fever sufferers – is a form of allergic conjunctivitis.

Although rare, coronavirus can lead to conjunctivitis too.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) details that symptoms of coronavirus include a “dry cough”, “loss of taste or smell”, and “conjunctivitis”.

Clearly, both coronavirus and hay fever share symptoms, so how can you tell the difference?

The last thing anybody wants to do right now is walk outside thinking “it’s just hay fever”, while unwittingly passing on the coronavirus infection to others.

Specsavers Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds says: “To avoid [hay fever] irritation, try putting a balm like Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen.

“Vacuum and dust your home regularly, or you can try over-the-counter allergy relief.”

Such measures will result in either the symptoms subsiding – indicating it is hay fever – or the coronavirus symptoms will persist.

The main difference in symptoms between the two conditions is that hay fever can cause ear ache.

Giles Edmonds continues: “Allergic reactions can affect the lining of the middle ear via the Eustachian tube, which links the middle ear to the nose and throat.

“If this becomes blocked it can lead to a build-up in pressure, which can cause discomfort, popping in the ears, earache and impair your ability to hear.”

Asthmatics with hay fever may also suffer from shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight chest.


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The symptoms of hay fever can last for months, while most people with a mild infection of coronavirus can completely recover in a fortnight.

Even if you’re suffering from a hay fever sneeze, it’s good hygiene standards to sneeze into your bent elbow or tissue – to be put in a bin immediately – and to wash your hands afterwards.

With the rate of infection currently below one, forecasters foretell the easing of lockdown measures in the UK to take place at the end of May.

To help get things back to normal, the rate of infection needs to be reduced as low as possible.

This can only be done by being a sensible citizen, which requires Britons to stay at home.

Of course, those not in the high-risk categories are allowed to go food shopping and exercise, but caution is needed.

Do remain at least two metres away from others while outside your home.

This way, whether it’s a hay fever sneeze or not, the chance of infecting others is lower.

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