Q&A with Bronson FastCare Family Nurse Practitioner, Dave Beard, on Allergy Season
It’s allergy season in Michigan. Spring is here and with that comes extreme weather change, causing our body to fight off the many allergens in the air. With the COVID-19 pandemic also still impacting the health of our communities, it’s hard to know if a runny nose, headache, congestion or coughing are allergy symptoms or something else. Here’s what Dave Beard, family nurse practitioner with Bronson FastCare had to share about this season’s allergens.
Q: How often are you seeing patients come in for their allergy symptoms?
A: We are pretty routinely treating people with allergy symptoms, whether they know it or not. A lot of patients come in congested and think they’ve got a cold, the flu, or the dreaded sinus infection. Although we are still seeing some cases of COVID-19 lingering around, a lot of the time it turns out to be allergies, especially during this time of the year. The primary allergen for spring [HND1] is trees.
Q: How does the environment around us cause allergies?
A: It’s classic Michigan weather, we often see sharp changes, especially in spring. [HND2] Rain comes down and kicks up allergens, which are then carried through the wind. We get a lot of high and low wind pressures, which blow around new allergens. There are a lot of changes, especially with cold temperatures than hot temperatures shortly after. All of these factors, and more, impact how we are effected by allergens.
Q: Would you say this year is any worse than previous years when dealing with allergies?
A: So far from what I'm seeing, just anecdotally speaking, allergens seem to be about the same as we were last year. Last year was a hard year dealing with allergies and this year we're shaping up to be just about the same.
Q: What are the symptoms of allergies versus COVID? Although symptoms may be similar, what are some of the obvious characteristics of a person with allergies?
A: Classic allergies include runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy eyes, itchy ears and itchy throat. It also includes mucus and discharge around the eyes. Those are all classic allergy symptoms. You could also experience fatigue with allergies too. A common misconception is that when people experience fatigue, they assume it’s from an infection, when really it’s just the bodies reaction to allergens.
With the current COVID strain, we can see a quite a bit of overlap in symptoms, patients often experience the same sinus congestion, the runny nose, headache and pressure. With COVID, you might experience a fever, and with allergies, you likely wouldn’t lose your smell and taste like you might with COVID. If you're not sure, getting tested really is the best option to find out. You can get a COVID test through Bronson, or you can use the home testing kits as well. My recommendation is if you are unsure about your symptoms, take a COVID test. If you have questions or concerns, always ask your primary care provider.
Q: Is it common for people who don’t typically have allergies to develop them later on?
A: Absolutely! I can speak from experience, growing up I didn’t experience allergy symptoms, I was exposed to everything and never experienced symptoms. I turned 30 years old, and all of the sudden I'm sneezing and congested during allergy season. That can happen. It’s also common that treatments people use to relieve their allergy symptoms can change over time. Patients may notice that the medication they have used in the past isn’t treating their allergy symptoms anymore and may need to try a different medication. These are all things that we'd be happy to help our patients figure out.
Q: Which allergy season would you consider the worst in Michigan?
A: We tend to see the most allergy patients in the spring and winter. In spring, we'll see a lot of people who are just getting outside and getting exposed to outdoor allergens. In winter, we'll see patients who think they're getting the cold or flu, but they're actually experiencing indoor winter allergens from things like dust mites or pet dander.
Are You Experiencing Seasonal Allergies?
If you or a loved one is experiencing allergy symptoms and you need relief, talk to your primary care doctor. They can talk to you about potential causes of your symptoms and provide some treatment options for relief.
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