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Managing allergies during COVID-19

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It is easy to mistake allergies for Covid-19 symptoms. Here's a helpful guide 

By Siddhi Jain

July 2, 2020 (IANSlife) ​In th​is​ unprecedented ​global crisis, ​health​ should be​ a top priority. ​With the onset​ ​of the monsoons and the rise in indoor pollution, allergies are on the rise​ - along with Covid-19 itself -​ and ha​ve a ​​direct impact on ​body's respiratory system. ​​

The common cold and flu is also rampant to add to the​ ​misery.​ ​It is necessary to understand seasonal allergies, its symptoms in order to distinguish them​ ​from the symptoms of the common cold, flu, and ​​C​ovid-19. Even though there could be few similarities , there are distinguishing features that separates them. It is imperative to understand this in order to manage it and avail treatment options.

If you have bouts of sneezing, a runny and stuffed nose with watery and itchy eyes, then you​ ​are suffering from an allergy​,​ Dr Sanjay Sachdeva Director, ENT for Head and Neck​ ​Surgery at Max Healthcare Limited, New Delhi​ told IANSlife​

​"​Fever, shortness of breath and cough​ ​defines the symptoms of C​ovid-19​​. In both cases, sore throat, fatigue and headaches are​ ​prevalent but look for the differentiating symptoms to understand your ailment. Allergies can​ ​last up to months while a common cold or flu usually lasts for 7-14 days. Cough is a​ ​symptom of Allergy only if it is associated with Bronchial Asthma. 

​"​Fever, body aches and​ ​pains are not signs of seasonal allergies. The key to managing allergies are prompt​ ​treatment. Even though you are not venturing out, online consultation and tele​-​medicine​ ​options are available. When the symptom appears, you must consult a doctor, prolonged​ ​delays can aggravate the situation leading to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory​ ​diseases​," the expert said over email.​

Allergy Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nose as a result of one’s immune system​ ​overreacting to allergen. Being confined at home, indoor pollution due to prolonged​ ​exposure is impacting our system especially if the environment is air conditioned. Rugs, duvets, curtains, carpets contribute and so does dampness and moisture​ - more so in the monsoon.​ ​Excessive growth of molds on moist surfaces is​ ​also a common allergy trigger. 

It is crucial to know your allergies and avoid these triggers,​ ​along with seeking medical intervention. Allergies can be managed and treated with right​ ​approach and educated early response.
 

​Allergies i​n children

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In children, allergies have a severe impact as they are more prone to and are highly​ ​susceptible due to a developing immune system. While allergic rhinitis shares symptoms​ ​with common cold, such as frequent or continuous sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes,​ ​and nasal congestion, it is important to consult your pediatrician to understand the​ ​differences. Allergies can impair cognition ​and psycho​-​motor development as well. 

Identifying​ ​allergies and responding quickly to the symptoms will help improve your child’s quality of life,​ ​reduce the number of missed school days and increase their activity levels. Take control of​ ​the situation and consult an allergist immediately when you observe such symptoms​,​ says​ ​Dr Krishan Chugh, Director and HOD, Paediatrics and PICU at Fortis Memorial​ ​Research Institute, New Delhi​​

We must remember that if not controlled at an early stage​ ​itself, stronger medicines may be required and those may not be safe to take during this​ ​C​ovid-19 pandemic.

The immune system of children is in the developmental stage, lungs are still developing, and​ ​their bodies are less able to metabolize and detoxify toxica​n​ts present in air pollution.​ ​Children inhale more air per unit of body​ ​weight than adults, hence the exposure to allergens​ ​is more in proportion to adults.

Exposure to air pollution can harm normal growth of lung​ ​function in the womb, during childhood and right up to the late teens. Recurrent allergic​ ​responses and exposure tend to have long-term physical, cognitive and psychological​ ​impact on children. 

A​ccording to a new WHO report ‘Air pollution and child health: prescribing clean​ ​air’​, e​very day around a staggering 93​ percent​ of the world’s children​ below​ 15 breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious​ ​risk.

 

​Precautions to better manage allergies 

Few precautions that need to be taken are keep indoors clean and dust free, identify causes​ of allergy, especially during seasonal changes, use clean cooking sources with exhaust​ ​systems and ensure children wear masks while outdoors. New-generation medicines and​ ​lifestyle management is a must to treat allergies and keep them in control. The right​ ​approach with lifestyle modifications and treatment is the key to manage​ ​your allergies especially during the pandemic.

 

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Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in