College warns of confusion between hay fever and COVID-19 symptoms

Publication date: 21 April 2020

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "We would normally expect to see a number of patients at this time of year suffering with symptoms of allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever – an allergic reaction to various types of pollen. Typically, patients suffering with hay fever will experience symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, sore and watering eyes – but also sometimes a cough. Some of these presenting problems, especially a cough, can also be symptoms of COVID-19.

"There are some important characteristics of hay fever that could help patients distinguish between it and COVID-19. Allergy symptoms tend to be milder and fluctuate depending on the time of day as pollen levels are often higher in the afternoon and evening. Similarly, wet weather may lead to patients experiencing milder symptoms.

"Patients who regularly suffer from hay fever will be familiar with the symptoms they usually get and the severity of them. In instances were a patient experiences a significant deviation from this, or have specific symptoms of COVID-19 - a new, persistent cough and a high temperature - we urge them to follow government advice and self- isolate.

"If symptoms persist or worsen, patients should seek medical advice from the NHS 111 service, or their GP."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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