Mild N.J. Winter Has Led to COVID-19 Confusion

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By: Bruce DeCotiis, M.D.

New Jersey has seen mild winters in recent years and this season was no different. Mild winters help create an early starting as well as a strong allergy season. No fun for those who suffer from allergies. Adding to the problem this season is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is making it difficult for some people to distinguish between the symptoms of the common cold, COVID-19, or allergy.

The good news for allergy sufferers is that they are already aware of their usual seasonal allergy symptoms. Sneezing, nasal congestion or runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, perhaps a cough from postnasal drip are all typical signs of allergies. If you are experiencing these signs and have had allergies before, it is most likely an allergy again.

If you also have a fever with these symptoms, that can mean flu, COVID-19, or other illness. COVID-19 symptoms have varied in individuals with the virus, but most people have had fever and a dry cough. Additional symptoms have included shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and body aches. Fever, nausea, diarrhea, and body ache is not typically associated with seasonal allergies or colds.

Asthma can flare up during allergy season, which like COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, but not fever. People with asthma should follow their treatment carefully and maintain their medications this season. They, like other people with respiratory issues, are at a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.

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If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms with a fever and cough and suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19 you may need to visit an urgent care center or access telemedicine services to speak with a physician. You can visit hackensackmeridianhealth.org/covid19 for a list of urgent care centers and information about Hackensack Meridian Health’s Convenient Care Now telemedicine services.

My family, sons and daughters, are all physicians across New Jersey and in Toronto and we have diverse vantage points of this pandemic. But what comes through loud and clear for us is the dedication our frontline health care teams have for patients, their communities, and each other. Together, I know that we’ll overcome this virus.

Dr. DeCotiis is board certified in allergy and immunology and internal medicine and section chief of allergy and immunology at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center. He has offices in Brick and Wall, N.J. To make an appointment or if you are unable to reach your allergist and want to arrange for a telehealth visit with Dr. DeCotiis, call 732-458-2000.

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