allergy symptoms Archives - Lifelab Testing

Covid-19 or Allergies: How can I distinguish the symptoms?

During this challenging time, with every sneeze, cough or tickle in the throat, many people wonder: Do I have COVID-19 or allergies? This could be a tricky question since most of those symptoms are also associated with seasonal flu. If this was not enough, millions of allergy sufferers around the world are finding this question tricky to answer, causing them to unnecessary self-isolate and constant worries: COVID-19 or allergies?

Today, we are here to shine some light on the recent findings to help you distinguish the symptoms between COVID-19 and allergies. If you think that you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please call your local NHS practice and get tested for COVID-19 first.

Allergies can occur seasonally or be present year-long including mild to severe symptoms. Allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to pollen, dust, mould, pet dander to mention some and are not contagious.

Common allergies symptoms include:

Sneezing, running nose, itchy or watery eyes, itchy nose or ears, mild fatigue, and mild sore throat.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a viral illness spread through droplets via coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact. Symptoms typically start between 2-14 days after exposure and they can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Common COVID-19 symptoms include:

Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, intense fatigue, body aches, loss of smell.

How to distinguish between the two: Checklist for COVID 19 or Allergies
  • Allergies symptoms tend to be long-lasting than viral symptoms and can be treated with allergy medications

  • Itchiness is normally a clear symptom of allergy while is not a symptom of viral infection

  • Fever is not a symptom of allergy, but is a common symptom of people with COVID-19

  • Constant sneezing is associated with allergy symptoms.

To help you check the symptoms we are summarising the symptoms for COVID-19 and allergies in the table below so you could check your symptoms and help determine what health issue you may be suffering from. On our website, we have allergy and intolerance tests available that can help you to determine the cause of your symptoms. Please stay alert and keep safe, together we will get through that.

Symptoms Allergies COVID-19
Body aches Rare Positive
Chills No Positive
Fever No Positive
Headache Sometimes Sometimes
Nasal Congestion Positive Rare
Running nose Positive Rare
Sneezing Positive Rare
Itchy/watery eyes Positive No
Dry cough Sometimes Positive
Shortness of breath Sometimes Positive
Wheezing Sometimes Rare
Loss of smell Mild Positive
Sore Throat Sometimes Sometimes
Nausea, vomiting No Sometimes

“Written and edited by Dr Enzo Fornari PhD, MSc trained as Scientific Researcher in the field of Pharmaceutical Science, Biophysics ”

What is Anaphylaxis? The nitty-gritty

What is it?

Anaphylaxis (also known as ‘anaphylactic shock’ or ‘anaphylaxia’) is a severe allergic reaction that affects the patient’s airways, heart, circulation, gut, and skin. The reaction usually occurs within minutes of exposure to the triggering allergen but can begin up to 2 or even 3 hours after initial contact. This reaction is potentially life-threatening and should be treated immediately by a medical professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

As anaphylaxis affects various systems within the body, there are many signs and symptoms of the reaction.

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Wheezing and a tight test
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling weak and floppy
  • Swelling of the lips, throat or anywhere on the body
  • Collapsing and/or passing out         
  • Flushed skin (this may be widespread)
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Itchy rash (or hives)

Causes of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is almost exclusively caused by an allergy, with the vast majority of cases being triggered by one of the 14 major allergens;

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten – including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin
  • milk
  • molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
  • mustard
  • tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soybeans
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)

Having an allergy to any of these major allergens increases the risk of anaphylaxis. The incidence of anaphylaxis appears to be increasing in the UK. Between 1992 and 2012, the number of yearly hospital admissions tracked by the NHS increased by over 600%, from approximately 1,150 admissions to over 8,200 [1]. The trend seems to be continuing, with admission for under 18’s Between 2014 and 2019 has risen by a staggering 70% [2].

Treatment and Outlook

If you are experiencing a bout of anaphylaxis, it is important to act fast. The first course of action is to administer adrenaline. Pre-loaded auto-injectors containing adrenaline are prescribed to individuals at high risk of anaphylaxis. These auto-injectors should be available at all times – no exceptions.

Adrenaline is crucial in these first few minutes as it acts to rapidly open up the patient’s airways, get their blood pressure back up and stop any swelling. If you suspect that you’re experiencing anaphylaxis but aren’t certain, it is recommended that adrenaline is administered anyway – as it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Following administering adrenaline, an ambulance should be called immediately, even if the person’s condition improves upon injecting adrenaline. If their condition gets worse after making that initial 999 call, call them again to ensure an ambulance is dispatched, as you will be put on a higher priority. 5-10 minutes after the first adrenaline injection, a second shot should be administered if the symptoms of anaphylaxis remain. 

Remember, anaphylaxis always requires an immediate emergency response. In the US, an estimated in the US, an estimated, 1% of hospitalisations due to anaphylaxis have a fatal outcome [3], so medical attention is vital.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors associated with anaphylaxis that can be partly controlled or seen as times, to take extra precautionary measures. These include;

  • Poorly controlled asthma
  • Current or recent infection
  • Exercise prior to or shortly after contact with the allergen
  • Suffering from hay fever or other aeroallergen symptoms
  • Emotional stress
  • Drinking alcohol

Research has also highlighted a few other risk factors to be aware of. For example, this study found that as a patient’s age increases, their risk of developing severe cardiovascular symptoms increases substantially [4].  

Suffering from a pre-existing respiratory illness can also be a factor, as studies have shown that poor management of allergic bronchial asthma drastically increases the risk of severe anaphylaxis [5]

Lastly, it appears that male patients are more likely to develop anaphylaxis from insect venom compared to females [6]. This has been observed in both male adults and children.

Prevention

The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to be aware of your allergies and be mindful to avoid them wherever possible. Many people are unaware of any allergies they may have, and most health professionals don’t carry out routine testing without prior evidence of an existing allergy or a family history.

Some people may feel that this is something they want to take into their own hands and opt for allergy testing to ensure they don’t remain ignorant of any potential allergies they may have.  

Final Thoughts

While the number of yearly deaths from anaphylaxis is relatively small, it still concerns us to know we may be at risk of anaphylaxis. And it’s far from an enjoyable experience either way. This life-threatening condition can be avoided with diligence and the knowledge of what your body may react adversely to.

Research

[1] Turner, P.J., Gowland, M.H., Sharma, V., Ierodiakonou, D., Harper, N., Garcez, T., Pumphrey, R. and Boyle, R.J. (2015). Increase in anaphylaxis-related hospitalizations but no increase in fatalities: An analysis of United Kingdom national anaphylaxis data, 1992-2012. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 135(4), pp.956-963.e1. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382330/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[2] NHS Digital. (2018). Hospital admissions for allergies and anaphylactic shock – NHS Digital. [online] Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/find-data-and-publications/supplementary-information/2018-supplementary-information-files/hospital-admissions-for-allergies-and-anaphylactic-shock [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[3] Ma, L., Danoff, T.M. and Borish, L. (2014). Case fatality and population mortality associated with anaphylaxis in the United States. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, [online] 133(4), pp.1075–1083. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091674913016424 [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[4] Worm, M., Babina, M. and Hompes, S. (2013). Causes and risk factors for anaphylaxis. Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft = Journal of the German Society of Dermatology : JDDG, [online] 11(1), pp.44–50. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23181736 [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[5] Iribarren, C., Tolstykh, I.V., Miller, M.K. and Eisner, M.D. (2010). Asthma and the prospective risk of anaphylactic shock and other allergy diagnoses in a large integrated health care delivery system. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, [online] 104(5), pp.371–7. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20486326?dopt=Abstract [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[6] Ruëff, F., et al. (2009). Predictors of severe systemic anaphylactic reactions in patients with Hymenoptera venom allergy: importance of baseline serum tryptase-a study of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology Interest Group on Insect Venom Hypersensitivity. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, [online] 124(5), pp.1047–54. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19895993?dopt=Abstract [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

Allergy Testing for Dust Mites?

It’s not unusual for a dusty room to cause a few sneezes here and there. But when those few sneezes turn into constant sneezing, watering eyes and congestion, there might be something more serious going on. If this sounds familiar, you might have an unknown house dust mite allergy.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a dust mite allergy will usually occur promptly after exposure to dust mites, although they can take up to 2 hours in rarer cases. The most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy include sneezing, watery eyes, congestion and a runny nose, tightness of chest and potentially difficulty breathing. Different people will experience differing severities of symptoms, and severity can also differ between reactions.

This allergen can also cause a flare-up of asthma, if you suffer from allergic asthma. an estimated 64% of people living with asthma find that house dust mites trigger their asthma symptoms.

Can allergy testing identify a dust mite allergy?

The good news is allergy testing for dust mites is available. Both our Basic allergy test and complete body test include testing for house dust mites, and many other allergy testing methods are capable of testing for this allergen.

How do I minimise these symptoms?

There’s no way to guarantee complete avoidance of dust mites, but you can minimise your chances of an allergic reaction through a few basic actions;

  • 60-degree washes – to kill off any mites
  • Opting for hard wood flooring over carpets
  • Regular vacuuming
  • Air conditioning or opening windows to allow airflow
  • Air filters and purifiers
  • Freezing and then washing soft toys

Is a dust mite allergy life-threatening?

As with any allergy, a dust mite allergy has the potential to be life threatening. The most dangerous symptom being anaphylaxis (also known as anaphylactic shock). The good news is that if an allergy is present, there are many medical treatments and lifestyle alterations you can make to minimise your risk of a reaction.

But the first order of business must be allergy testing, to make certain that your symptoms are being caused by an allergy and not another undiagnosed condition.