Srinagar: The J&K Society of Consultant Doctors (JKSCD) on Monday issued a health advisory ahead of the pollen season in Kashmir.
A statement issued by the JKSCD here said that a large proportion of the population reports seasonal symptoms related to pollen, the most common of which being itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, persistent sneezing and in moderate to severe cases, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Although pollen allergies, including mild allergic asthma have not been identified as a major risk factor for COVID-19 infection, thr JKSCD advised public to remain cautious.
Any moderate to severe asthma, irrespective of trigger, where patient needs daily treatment is included in the list of chronic lung conditions that make a patient vulnerable to COVID-19, it said.
President JKSCD, Dr Maajed Jehangeer, advised children and adults on maintenance medications for allergies such as inhaled corticosteroids and/or bronchodilators (inhalers), leukotriene inhibitors and/or antihistamines (allergy tablets) to continue their treatment as prescribed by their doctor.
Dr Jehangeer asked such patients not to discontinue their medication for fear of COVID-19.
“It is very possible to have asymptomatic or almost asymptomatic COVID-19 and to mistake it for seasonal rhinitis/hay fever. Therefore, patients with hay fever should keep their symptoms under the best possible control and that means using intranasal corticosteroid inhalers and other medicines as prescribed by their docto,” Dr Jehangeer said.
He further emphasised that these drugs are not inadvisable, and there was a strong scientific evidence that intranasal steroid use for hay fever improves nasal innate immunity.
Dr Jehangeer said that those having hay fever/pollen allergy develop symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and they will need to self-isolate, inform their doctor and monitor their health as everyone else.
If progressive breathing difficulty develops prompt medical assistance should be sought, he said.
Although the definitive diagnosis of COVID-19 is not clinical and can be confirmed only through laboratory testing, Dr Jehangeer said that there are still zome clinical signs that can differentiate between hay fever/pollen allergy and COVID-19 infection.
“The term ‘hay fever’ is a misnomer as there is no fever in hay fever whereas fever, sometimes high-grade is common in COVID-19 infection, ” he explained.
Similarly, cough is rare in hay fever whereas there is a dry and persistent cough in COVID-19 cases, he added.
He further explained that fatigue and myalgia (muscle pain) are rarely encountered in hay fever whereas most patients with COVID-19 infection report severe fatigue and significant myalgia.
“Also, symptoms of hay fever are relieved by over the counter anti-allergy tablets like antihistamines, leukotriene inhibitors, whereas COVID-19 symptoms do not respond to these over the counter cold medications”.
The President JKSCD said that there was no reason to self isolate in case of a simple pollen allergy.
He however urged people to follow the general guidances for physical distancing, maintain hand hygiene and avoid touching ones face and see a doctor non-urgently. “However, if symptoms get worse, or there is fever and/or progressive difficulty breathing seek urgent medical care, ” he said.
Dr Masood Rashid Spokesperson JKSCD requested administration to provide free masks to all patients who seek medical advice in the health set-up.
Quoting a study, Dr Rashid said that if both COVID-19 positive patient and his/her casual contact are wearing a mask the risk of transmission of the virus is very low.
“As such, the benefit of wearing a mask ( even homemade one) cannot be overemphasised especially now that evidence is forthcoming that many patients (upto 50% in some parts of world) with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, ” he said.