I coughed. 

I think that if heads could whip around any faster, they would have become unscrewed from their necks! To think that a year ago, a cough or sneeze at a restaurant wouldn’t have even caused me to bat an eyelash, but now clearing my throat puts me at the receiving end of a stern side-eye and the not-so-subtle casual glance. Nowadays, everyone is under the sharp surveillance of concerned family and friends and the ever-present friendly neighborhood busybody (don’t we all have one of those?). I, myself, got nervous when with the entrance of spring, I woke up with a runny nose and itchy throat. Is this it? I found it ridiculous that after escaping peak pandemic times unscathed, that I would fall prey to the coronavirus nearly a year after its arrival. 

But then you get in your own head. You begin to think This is it! And your mind takes you down a doomsday spiral where the panic of a potential COVID diagnosis makes you stray away from the knowledge you’ve had for a lifetime. If you’re anything like me, my combination of asthma and allergies far predates the appearance of the COVID19 pandemic. So here’s what I did before managing to freak myself out even further! 

#1 List your symptoms

It’s true that COVID and allergy symptoms have some crossover, but you’ll find that many of the symptoms that allergy-sufferers experience don’t even make it to the COVID list! This nifty infographic by the CDC  was perfect: 

It helped me to clarify what I was feeling and also helped me to explain it to family and friends that were really worried about my condition. Seeing my symptoms laid out for me, even as a doctor, in an easy checklist format was definitely comforting and made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy! 

#2 Check your sources 

As lovely as it is to have all these sources of information, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of what’s available. In addition, having to muddle through what’s valid or not is another mental hurdle we have to run through in order to figure out if what we’re reading is from an actual verified source. For myself, I stick to the “big guns” like the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which all have regularly updated, dedicated web pages with information specific to coronavirus and the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many states and regions have even more specific local information. Sites like these exist to educate and keep the public well-informed, so not only is the information readily available, it is easily digestible, understandable and shareable! 

#3 Take your normal medications

When in doubt, take your prescribed medications. For the entirety of my life, I’ve had an inhaler and my antihistamine (anti-allergy medication) of choice on hand and once spring arrives in March, I’m searching for them with my eyes watering and nose running! For those of us seasoned allergy veterans, we know the drill. Try what usually works and then maybe start to worry if you’re finding that things are just a little bit different this year. But don’t worry too much, because even if you are feeling different or what you’re usually doing doesn’t seem to be getting better, there are non-COVID reasons for that, too! That’s why, when in doubt – 

#4: See your doctor! 

If all else fails and you’re still feeling nervous and anxious or you’re finding that whatever you’re feeling is lasting a little too long or hasn’t gone away or feels differently than what you’ve felt before, stop reading here! Pick up the phone and make an appointment with your doctor or chosen healthcare provider to put your mind and heart at ease. Sometimes even when we know, having someone tell us that it’s okay is the difference between a stressful day and a good night’s sleep. Never hesitate to seek a professional opinion; after all, your physicians are here to help you feel like you’re at your best! 

Hypervigilance is what is keeping us safe, of course! And in a time where protocols still differ from country-to-country and even from state-to-state, we have to remain informed and educated and keep ourselves, and our communities safe! So to all fellow allergy and asthma-sufferers, I say, take heart, and I wish you all the soft tissues and pollen-free days in the world.

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