Covid-19 has shaken the world to its roots and is the cause of widespread fear and panic for more reasons than one. Among the various changes it has caused in the lives of people, an important one is the increased attention and care for respiratory health. A large section of Indians struggle with chronic respiratory issues such as respiratory allergies, allergic rhinitis, etc., which have similar symptoms to Covid-19 as they are all diseases that impact the respiratory system. People are riddled with fear because of a sneeze or cough due to the lack of awareness regarding the distinguishing symptoms of various respiratory diseases.
World Allergy Week is observed from 28th June-4th July, as part of a global campaign of the World Allergy Organisation (WAO), which aims to raise awareness of the impact of allergy among communities. This year, World Allergy Week emphasizes on the theme ‘Allergy care does not stop with COVID-19’. With the onset of the monsoons, cases of common cold, flu and seasonal allergies are inevitable. With the larger part of the population confined indoors due to Covid-19, indoor pollution has become an increasing concern. It has been proven that even a single exposure to indoor air pollutants has the potential to trigger allergies in patients.
In India, the prevalence of allergies has multiplied by five times, from 6% in 1998 to 30% in 2018. However, only 35% of the allergy sufferers in India are seeking treatment for their allergies while 50% of the allergy sufferers are unaware that they are suffering from allergies. A recent study revealed that allergies affect 33% of Indians but most don’t even get the right treatment. Majority of Indians believe that respiratory allergies don’t have a long-term impact and fail to seek treatment until the condition is aggravated. This is due to low awareness levels and lack of information in the public domain about the subject.
“With the monsoon season that has commenced in India, a spike in cases of seasonal allergies is inevitable. Indoor pollution will be rampant because people are confined to their homes paired with excessive use of air-conditioners and increased exposure to carpets, rugs etc. Respiratory allergies generally have chronic symptoms that include bouts of sneezing, wheezing, that could last for several weeks while the main symptoms of the novel coronavirus are fever, tiredness, cough, and shortness of breath. Allergic Rhinitis is a major chronic respiratory disease caused due to irritation and inflammation of the membranes lining the nose, mainly characterised by watery and itchy eyes, blocked nose, lethargy, and sleep disturbances. It significantly affects the quality of life by causing fatigue, headaches and episodes of inactivity. In both cases, sore throat, fatigue and headaches are commonly observed. Patients are advised to closely monitor their symptoms and seek timely and accurate treatment. Being aware of the distinguishing symptoms helps one avoid unnecessary confusion and panic. Respiratory allergies, if left untreated can give way for more serious problems like asthma, persistent or uncontrolled allergies and can negatively impact the health of the patient in the long run,” says Dr. Dipankar Datta, who has been practicing as an ENT consultant & sleep – apnoea surgeon at Belle Vue clinic, Kolkata for 18 years. New-generation medicines, lifestyle changes and most importantly medical intervention is crucial to manage allergies during Covid-19. Even though Covid-19 and respiratory allergies are similar, it is important to understand the above distinguishing factors that will help in taking care of your respiratory health during this global crisis.