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Coronavirus Or Hay Fever? Here's How To Tell The Difference

The spring breezes of 2020 are carrying more than just tree pollen. There’s a whiff of paranoia in the air.

With pollen levels set to increase this month hay fever, sufferers will begin to face the sniffles.

You're tired, you're itchy, and your nose is a snot waterfall — you know this is just hay fever. But as we enter our tenth week of lockdown, you find yourself wondering — could this actually be coronavirus? It can be surprisingly difficult to tell between the two — especially when this weekend is set to be the highest pollen count in 70 years. 

What's more, you may even be fretting over whether suffering from hay fever makes you more susceptible to coronavirus, since it’s been said to affect those with respiratory conditions?

Never mind the differing symptoms — that sneezing and runny nose, hallmarks of hay fever, are not typically associated with COVID-19, which commonly produces coughing, fever and in more serious cases shortness of breath. Never mind that allergies don’t cause fevers. Allergy sufferers fret that there’s just enough overlap to make them nervous.

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For example, people with hay fever often report a wheeze in the chest, underlying the finding that about 40 per cent of patients with hay fever have asthma. Hay fever usually precedes asthma, although both diseases can occur together.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to figure out which one you can blame for these symptoms.

As Boots Boots Pharmacist, Heather Feeney, explains:

"Hayfever doesn’t cause a high temperature and most people don’t feel unwell. While our knowledge of Coronavirus is still evolving it appears that sneezing is not a symptom and it's rare to have a runny or stuffy nose. Typical hayfever symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy red watery eyes or an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears."

Below, Feeney shares some practical steps you can take to tackle hay fever symptoms...

first up, daily prevention

  • Try applying Vaseline to the inside of your nose, it works as a barrier and can trap pollen before breathing it in.
  • When you’re in and out of the garden, wear wraparound sunglasses to help prevent pollen from getting in and irritating your eyes.
  • After spending time outdoors, try and make time to have a shower to wash away any stray pollen on your hair and skin, and put all clothes straight in the wash.
  • Avoid hanging your washing outside as the pollen in the air can cling to your clean clothes and linger on the materials.


There are lots of hayfever relief products out there, so if one type of medication isn’t working for you, consider swapping to another. If you’re looking for help choosing, your local Boots pharmacy team will be able to suggest alternatives.


Certain times of day have higher pollen levels, typically the first half of the morning and later in the afternoon and evening, so taking a one-a-day allergy relief tablet in the morning will help protect you when you need it most. Around midday is a time where pollen count is at its lowest, so take this opportunity to pop out to the garden for some fresh air and to perhaps eat lunch, this will also help you get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

Worried it's something more serious? tHERE'S A CHART FOR THAT

Worried about obtaining the disease? You should follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus and other infections like flu.

For more information, please check the HPSC/HSE's frequently asked questions here. 

Main image by @mariejedig on Instagram

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