Navigating Pollen Season Amid Coronavirus Fears


by rdanielsr6d7 March 19, 2020

Spring brings warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and, for millions of Americans, the arrival of pollen season. It also coincides this year with the arrival of COVID-19, which could make allergy sufferers hyperaware of every sneeze and sniffle.

But there are key differences in symptoms. Seasonal allergies can cause sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and cough. Yet unlike allergies, coronavirus causes a fever, with other symptoms including cough and shortness of breath.

When seeking relief, people with allergies who are concerned about heart disease or high blood pressure must be especially careful when taking blood pressure-raising, over-the-counter decongestants. They’re also stimulants, which can increase heart rate.

But determining the extent of the direct connection between allergies and heart health is a topic that needs more research. A look at two studies offers examples of differing conclusions.

A 2016 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the relationship between airborne allergen concentrations and emergency room visits for heart attacks in Ontario, Canada, from 2004-2011. The study found the risk of having a heart attack was 5.5 percent higher on days with the highest pollen levels compared to days with the lowest levels. Heart attack risk was highest in May and June when tree and grass pollen are most common.

“There appears to be an association between seasonal allergies and cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Laurence Sperling, the Katz Professor in Preventive Cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “This is an area where further investigation is needed.”


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