UVA Health warns of severe allergy season

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. (WVIR) – Not only are allergies getting more severe, but the allergy season is becoming longer. We know that wearing masks can reduce the spread of COVID, but some doctors say it can reduce your allergies this season.

“It is always an option for individuals to wear those masks outdoors or reduce their exposure if they know they’re very sensitive, ” Dr. Michael Nelson, an allergist with UVA Health said.

Nelson says masks can be a tool in these long allergy seasons.

“Believe it or not, one of the things we’ve recommended for some of our patients who are more sensitive to grass pollen, for example, when they’re out doing yard work, is to wear masks,” Nelson said.

Masks are not a permanent solution according to Nelson

“Allergen immunotherapy is a way of changing an individual’s response to allergens. It’s the only way we actually have to cure allergies. We have a lot of medications to help control symptoms, but allergy shots changes the immune system,” Nelson said.

During this season it can be tricky to tell COVID-19 symptoms from allergies.

“There is some symptom overlap between COVID and seasonal allergies, or hay fever,” Dr. Costi Sifri with UVA Health said. “This sort of syndromic symptoms, the whole body symptoms that one sees with COVID are not seen with seasonal allergies. Those things include things like fevers, muscle aches and pains, GI problems.”

Nelson says distinguishing allergies from COVID is a difficult task

“It does appear that the pollen seasons for each of the different species be in a tree, grass or weed is starting earlier, is producing higher counts than expected, and it’s lasting longer,” Nelson said.

Even if you have not struggled with allergies in the past, there’s a chance you can start feeling the effects.

“Whether it’s due to this expansion of the pollen season and increases in pollen exposure we don’t know. We certainly know that people are suffering more than they have in the past as a result of this the trend is towards increasing allergies throughout the country,” Nelson said.

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