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Doctor Hilary on the difference between covid and hay fever

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen that can often be mistaken as a summer cold.

But there are slight differences in the symptoms that can help identify which one it is, according to Ghelani, including the colour of the mucus from your nose.

Is there a cough?

A cough is a common symptom with both hay fever and colds, where can you buy especially so if you are asthmatic.

She explained: “With hay fever the symptoms of the cough will be more of a dry cough with little mucus, that gets worse when the pollen count is high.

“With a cold a chesty cough is often seen, with more mucus. If you notice your symptoms are worse when you are outdoors, then it is likely to be hay fever causing the cough.”

Do you have an itchy throat?

With hay fever itchiness of the nose, throat and eyes are common symptoms.

But if an itchy throat is soothed by sucking a lozenge, then it is likely that you have hay fever.

Ghelani advised: “With a cold, it is more likely that you will get a sore throat, that is not itchy.

“A blocked nose with a cold will mean that you breathe through the mouth more often leading to soreness and dryness of the throat.”

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What colour is the mucus from your nose?

A cold is caused by a virus infection, the body will try to fight this infection by engulfing the virus with white blood cells, said Ghelani.

She continued: “This leads to the colour of the mucus in the nostril being changed to yellow/green. In contrast, hay fever is an allergic reaction that results in the body producing more histamine – a chemical that helps protect the body against allergens. In this case, the nasal mucus is more likely to be clear in colour.

“Using a saline nasal spray, such as Xlear nasal spray is ideal for either a cold or hay fever as it helps to clear away allergens, viruses and bacteria that have entered the nasal passage.

“Saline water will also help to dislodge any thickened mucus, opening up the nasal passages and making it easier to breathe.”

The NHS recommends other ways to easy hay fever symptoms, such as:

  • put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
  • stay indoors whenever possible
  • keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities

The health body also advises the best ways to treat a cold:

  • rest and sleep
  • drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is OK) to avoid dehydration
  • gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat (not suitable for children)

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