Posted by Kiran Sidhu on November 10, 2020
Kiran Sidhu

Spring is here but it comes with allergy season as well. Around 25% of Canadians suffer from outdoor seasonal allergies during this time of the year. 

What Are Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain allergens in the environment such as pollen, grass, and certain trees. The symptoms include runny nose, itchy nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, itchy throat, wheezing and mild fatigue. 

Seasonal Allergies and COVID-19
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging but critical to recognize and manage seasonal allergies symptoms. COVID-19 is a viral infection caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, which mainly causes respiratory symptoms such as fever, chills, dry cough and shortness of breath. It can also cause less frequent symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pains, conjunctivitis (pink eyes) and unexplained fatigue. 

There are two important points to pay attention to:

1. It's crucial to prevent and control seasonal allergies symptoms more efficiently to keep immune system strong.


The most effective method to prevent seasonal allergies is to completely avoid the “Allergen” that causes symptoms. Here are some tips:

  • Pollen counts are typically highest from 5:00 am to 10:00 am and at dusk, so try to plan outside activities for other times of the day. Hot, dry, windy days means more pollen. Right after the rain, pollen count is usually very low.
  • Wear an inexpensive painter's mask when you're working in the garden or doing other outside chores.
    Pollen spores can hitch a ride on your shoes, clothing and hair and get tracked inside. After spending time outdoors, be sure to remove your shoes, take a quick shower and change your clothes to remove pollen.
  • Bedding or clothing hung out to dry on a clothes line may pick up mould spores, along with other allergens. Use a clothes dryer instead.
  • When driving, keep windows up and set the air conditioner on "recirculate." At home, keep windows closed and use air conditioning. Be sure to change your filters often.
  • Looking to plant trees on your property? Avoid hard deciduous trees that can aggravate allergies, including birch, oak, elm, maple, ash, alder and hazel. Instead go with species such as Catalpa, Crepe myrtle, dogwood, fir, or redwood trees.
  • Avoid planting in your yard flowers that are related to ragweed such as sunflowers, daisies and chrysanthemums. If you’re not sure what to plant, ask your local garden centre before you buy.

If you're experiencing seasonal allergies symptoms, following over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are available and effective in most cases:

  • A non-drowsy anti-histamine such as Reactine, Claritin, Aerius etc.
  • Anti-allergy eye drops such as Opticrom
  • Anti-allergy nasal spray such as Flonase

If the symptoms don’t improve with OTC medications, then it is important to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for an assessment, management with prescription medications and/or allergy testing referral to confirm allergies.

2. It's important to be aware of the similarities and differences of allergies symptoms versus COVID-19 symptoms. 


Some typical symptoms of seasonal allergies 🤧  Some COVID-19 symptoms 😷
Clear thin nasal discharge Thick coloured nasal discharge
Itchy, tickly throat  Sore painful throat 
Pinkish itchy watery eyes Painful eyes with thick discharge
Post-nasal drip like cough that gets better after you have cleared the nasal secretions that fell in the back of your throat.


Dry cough due to allergic asthma that gets better with the use of your usual inhalers.
A dry cough that does not go away and is accompanied by shortness of breath and fever. 

COVID-19 symptoms are usually different and more intense (unless you are one of the asymptomatic carriers). This does not exclude the possibility of COVID-19. 

If your seasonal allergies symptoms are not getting better with the usual medications you take, or if you're not sure whether your symptoms are related to seasonal allergies or other viral or bacterial infection, please consult with Dialogue.

Topics: Health and Wellness

About the author

Kiran is a family nurse practitioner with Dialogue who also works with a family health team, providing primary health care services to patients of all ages. She loves health promotion and clinical teaching.