1 in 3 Brits with allergies likely confuse annual hay fever symptoms with those of the latest Covid-19 mutations this summer. The hay fever season peaks in mid-May, but it’s extremely difficult to initially tell allergies apart from Omicron variants.Covid is still dangerous and must be swiftly identified, warns London Medical Laboratory.
Covid cases may be falling in the UK, but the virus can still pose significant dangers, such as long Covid and brain fog, for those who do catch it. Late May is peak hay fever season, and new data from London Medical Laboratory indicates the latest Covid Omicron variants’ symptoms are, initially, almost identical to those of many allergies. It is essential people correctly identify the cause of their symptoms.
The leading testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘Mid-May is the peak season for everyone who suffers from pollen allergies. That’s because tree pollen runs from late March to mid-May, and grass pollens from mid-May to September. Now is the unfortunate time when both coincide.’
‘For most people, the pollen season is only a problem because it triggers allergies such as hay fever. However, there is a new danger this year. The symptoms of the latest Omicron variants of the ever-changing Covid-19 virus are highly similar to common reactions to pollen, such as allergic rhinitis – commonly known as hay fever.’
‘London Medical Laboratory’s latest testing data reveals one in three people are now showing potentially severe allergies – 32% more than previous estimates by the NHS. That means one in 3 of us are liable to mistake Covid for our annual hayfever and allergy symptoms. We mustn’t do.’
‘Even though the latest Omicron variants generally cause less severe symptoms than earlier strains of Covid-19, even a mild initial illness can still trigger long Covid and brain fog.
According to research from Imperial College, the months lasting mental impacts of severe Covid-19 on areas like memory, attention or problem solving may be equivalent to 20 years of ageing.’
The problem is that many common allergy symptoms, such as hay fever, and those caused by the latest Covid Omicron BA.2 onwards variants, closely match. Both common allergy symptoms and Omicron can cause:
- runny nose
- sore throat
‘This was a very different situation from last May when the Delta variant established itself as the dominant Covid strain (Omicron didn’t arrive in the UK until around December). Delta’s main symptoms were very different from allergies: largely fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath, intense fatigue, body aches and loss of smell.’
‘Many people will go to work and crowded shops with hay fever but would not dream of doing so if they knew they had Covid-19. So,is Omicron deliberately mirroring the symptoms of allergies to spread faster?’
‘That seems unlikely. Most scientists now believe that the Omicron variant somehow picked up parts of the common cold virus, which means it spreads more easily and matches hay fever and allergy symptoms such as sneezing, which was not a symptom of earlier Covid-19 strains.’
‘The actual causes of the symptoms are different. For example, the headache hay fever sufferers experience is likely due to sinus disease around the nasal passages, rather than the fever often caused by Covid .’
‘So how can you tell Covid and allergies apart? Covid and allergies have classic symptoms that seldom overlap. The main difference is that allergies do not cause a temperature. Hayfever is entirely misnamed, and it does not cause a fever. If you have a fever, you are more likely to experience symptoms of Covid or the flu rather than an allergy.’
‘Likewise, intense fatigue, body aches (especially in the joints) and a dry cough are typical classic Covid symptoms. They are rarer with Omicron, but it’s a good indicator that you suffer from Covid if you develop them.’
‘Conversely, itchy noses and watery eyes are more likely to be allergy symptoms than Omicron.’
‘Blood tests are another meaningful way that people can identify whether they are more likely to be suffering from allergies or vulnerable to Covid. For anyone concerned about their Covid antibody levels and how effective their jabs remain, a quantitative Covid antibody test is recommended. You could also use this test to see if you were recently infected with Covid-19.
‘To easily identify if you are likely to suffer from any allergies such as hay fever caused by pollens, a simple finger prick blood test will determine most potential allergies, including all the pollens, pet hair, and both plant and animal-derived food.
For example, London Medical Laboratory’s Allergy Complete is the UK’s most comprehensive allergy test, analysing 295 allergens; it can be taken at home through the post or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer this test across London, the southeast and selected pharmacies and health stores. For full details, see here.