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The new debate – Allergies or COVID?

April 15, 2021

Photo by Judith Brown

Laurens, S.C. – Yellow pollen clouds aren’t quite as thick as they were a week or so ago but allergy season is still in full swing, and the “Is it COVID or is it allergies?” question is a common thread in conversations in workplaces and in doctors’ offices.

Dr. Nate Benitez with Laurens Family Medicine, part of Prisma Health, said it’s shaping up to be a rough allergy season.

“So far everything I’ve seen in the community here in Laurens points to it being a pretty severe allergy season, and pollen counts have been pretty high,” Benitez said. “Anyone can see the cars covered in it. So it’s a pretty significant allergy season out there and a lot of people are coming into the office because of allergies.”

But Benitez said those feeling sick these days can’t simply chalk everything up to allergies, because some COVID-19 symptoms can be very similar.

“COVID does often affect the respiratory system but it affects many other areas as well, and that’s how someone can differentiate,” Benitez said. “Typically, allergies cause runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and congestion, but if you start experiencing fever, diarrhea, nausea or a loss of sense of taste and smell then you shouldn’t blame allergies.”

“And absolutely if you are someone who never has allergies and start suffering with these symptoms, then you probably ought to get tested,” Benitez said, adding that testing options are more accessible since physicians offices are now offering them.

“If something is not adding up, or you’re having one of those symptoms that is not classic allergies, then it doesn’t hurt to take a test,” Benitez said. “Coworkers and employers will appreciate someone who goes to get tested instead of going six, seven or eight days positive for COVID and didn’t know it because they thought it was allergies.”

Benitez said his biggest recommendation currently, however, is to get the COVID vaccine.

“I recommend strongly now that we are in phase 2 for vaccinations that anybody who is age-appropriate should go get vaccinated against COVID,” Benitez said. “There are several pharmacies offering them and at The Ridge at Laurens where Prisma Health is giving them. Just about anyone now can go and get vaccinated.”

Pharmacies are typically offering the two-step Moderna, and The Ridge at Laurens and other healthcare facilities are giving Pfizer.

The large numbers of vaccines administered in South Carolina are making a difference.

“For the most part I’m seeing a willingness to be vaccinated and the counts are down,” Benitez said. “That points to the effectiveness.”


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