Covid symptoms: Is it hay fever or coronavirus? A doctor tells all

Hay fever: Expert discusses best time to take antihistamine

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Spring is the time when pollen from grass, trees and weeds are released, causing an allergic reaction in some people. Dr Gordon Sinclair explained why it’s important to understand the difference between symptoms of Covid and hay fever. “We want to make sure [people] don’t go out and about, assuming they have their usual allergies, when they may actually have coronavirus,” said Dr Sinclair. However, the GP – who is the Clinical Chair of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group – doesn’t want to cause undue anxiety.

He identified the three main symptoms of coronavirus as:

  • A high temperature
  • A new continuous cough
  • A loss of smell or taste

“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,” he clarified.

Hay fever

“Hay fever and allergy symptoms tend to be milder, for example, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing,” he elaborated.

Dr Sinclair noted that hay fever symptoms “may vary over the course of the day”.

In addition, they can change “depending on the weather, as the pollen count changes”.

“They can also usually be controlled through antihistamines or nasal sprays,” he added.


The doctor warned: “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.”

Although coronavirus can be dangerous to those at high risk of severe disease – many of whom have now been vaccinated – others can handle the infection at home.

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Dr Sinclair said coronavirus symptoms can be managed by taking paracetamol and drinking plenty of fluids.

However, if you feel worse, Dr Sinclair urged people to “always go through 111 first”.

There’s an online web service for NHS 111 and they’re also free to call on 111.

People should not go to their GP clinic, pharmacy or hospital if they think they have coronavirus without contacting NHS 111 first.

How do I know if I have Covid?

If you have any of the three classic warning signs of coronavirus, you can order a free NHS test online.

The three classic symptoms

  1. A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  2. A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  3. A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

While waiting for your test results, NHS England said you – and anyone you live with – “should stay at home”.

“Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started,” added the NHS.

Hay fever symptoms

Allergy UK listed the symptoms of hay fever as:

  • Itchy eyes/ throat
  • Sneezing, blocked/runny nose
  • Watering, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Headaches, blocked sinuses
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Post-nasal drip

Post-nasal drip is the “sensation of mucus running down the back of the throat”.

These symptoms become severe when the pollen count is high; they can be remedied by applying an effective allergen barrier balm around the edges of your nostrils.

This will help to prevent pollen from entering the body via the nasal passage and causing an allergic reaction.

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