Utah Expert Explains The Difference Between COVID-19, Allergy Symptoms

Apr 30, 2021, 5:33 PM

SANDY, Utah — Do you feel like your seasonal allergies are worse this year? You’re not alone. And with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, confusing symptoms can be nerve-wracking. One Utah expert explained the difference.

Spring is in full bloom, and in the past, so have 13-year-old Grant Brady’s allergies — making a game of outdoor basketball or Monkey in the Middle with his brothers not so fun.

“Well, I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all,” Grant said.

The teen is allergic to cats, dogs, dust mites, sage, grass and tree pollens. It’s something he’s dealt with his whole life, said his mother, Nicole Brady.

“From birth. He could never really breathe through his nose,” she said. “It was frustrating that I didn’t feel like we could do much about it when they’re really little.”

Grant’s allergies only exacerbated his asthma.

“I used to have to use inhalers whenever I would exercise,” he said.

“He was playing lacrosse, and every June, it would just be pretty rough,” Nicole added. “He would start to have a lot of problems breathing and that was related to his asthma, so he’d end up on several — well, probably three — inhalers. They were trying to open up his airways because he was struggling so much.”

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Libby Kelly said milder winters can in fact lead to a more severe allergy season, with high pollen counts globally.

“As we go through global warming, we expect that there will be a lot more pollens, (and) more intense in terms of the amount of pollen,” she explained.

At the beginning of the pandemic when many families were working and schooling from home, Kelly noticed many had far more exposure to their pets at home which worsened their allergies.

She said allergies can change each year depending on someone’s environment.

“Each individual’s experience with the pollens may go up and down from year to year, depending upon how many animals they have in their house or what their hobby is, if they’re out hiking more that year,” she said. “A lot of the population, which is wonderful, are getting out and hiking and getting into the mountains, because that’s sort of the only thing there is to do, and I find that those people are having more trouble with pollens.”

Kelly also said several allergens can worsen asthma.

“There are several things that flare asthma and it can be the pollens, it can be animals, it can be wildfire, smoke and pollution,” she described.

Grant started on allergy immunotherapy shots five years ago. The shots are made up of tiny amounts of the exact allergen the patient is allergic to, which eventually calm down the immune system.

“Over time, as we get to the higher doses, that’s when they start to work,” Kelly explained.

The therapy has dramatically improved his condition, according to the Bradys.

“My nose isn’t as stuffy and I can actually breathe through it,” he said.

Grant said the shots are no big deal.

“It’s just like you’re getting a normal shot, just maybe more often,” he said.

He no longer relies on an inhaler, but with Grant’s asthma, the family was extra cautious at the beginning of the pandemic when there were so many unknowns about the virus.

Kelly admitted COVID-19 and allergy symptoms can be difficult to distinguish.

“I would say the biggest difference is itching. If a patient has itching, it’s more likely to be allergies. On the flip side, if you have aches and shaking chills or a fever, then that’s more likely to be COVID,” Kelly explained.

She said allergies can induce a low-grade fever, but anything over 100 could be a viral infection.

If new symptoms develop such as, “itchy eyes or sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, even have a deep itch in their throat and into their ears,” Kelly said to try a nonsedative antihistamine, nose spray or eye drops and consult your doctor.

If over-the-counter medications don’t work, Kelly said allergy shots might be the answer.

Nicole said they have helped their family so much.

“It’s nice that we don’t worry about it anymore,” she said. “Everyone I know that has done the immunotherapy shots has had a lot of success, so I don’t see any reason why not to do them.”

Kelly said many people have found their allergies aren’t as bad when they wear a mask since masks can filter out large particles as well as improve a dry cough.

“They love masks because they’re breathing that humidified air and seems to help their cough a lot,” Kelly said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

When Harrison O’Toole of Layton was five-years-old, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital t...
Peter Rosen, KSL TV

Utah’s Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital celebrates 100 years of treating kids

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is used to celebrating kids’ birthdays, but this year the staff there is saying ‘happy birthday’ to the hospital itself.
3 days ago
Mike Dbeisi and Austin Smith are avid outdoor enthusiasts and emergency room doctors with Intermoun...
Ken Fall

How to enjoy Utah’s mountain bike trails safely this summer

Utah is known for outdoor sports, but they don’t come without risk. Two Intermountain ER doctors share their advice for anyone looking to mountain bike in the backcountry.
7 days ago
Dennis Cecchini talks about the overdose death of his son, Tennyson. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox, KSL TV

The overdose-reducing drug doctors say more of us should have on hand

It can fit in your pocket and save a life. After overdose deaths from opioids climbed during the pandemic, medical workers and advocates are spreading the word about naloxone.
17 days ago
Mother offers her advice for keeping her kids active at the park in the summer....
Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Ways to keep your kids active during the summer break

With Utah's weather so nice this time of year, you would think getting kids to be active would be a slam dunk. But it can be a tall order given the draw of smartphones, tablets, and video games.
25 days ago
Watermelon pizza - Skip the sugary snacks this summer and make fruit the star of the show with thes...
Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Make fruit the star of summer snack time

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Between the BBQs, road trips, and busy schedules, summer can be a tough time to get healthy snacks into your kids. For Intermountain Healthcare’s corporate executive chef, Alex Govern, a little bit of sugar goes a long way in helping his kids eat healthy. “We don’t say no to sugars,” […]
1 month ago
Ken Fall, KSL TV

With warm weather arriving, keep your kids safe from window falls

It’s that time of year when windows are flying open to let in some fresh air. But it’s also when open windows and unsafe screens present a serious danger to little kids.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah Expert Explains The Difference Between COVID-19, Allergy Symptoms