I swear, it is only allergies

May 10, 2021 / By Kelly Long, BS, CPC, CPCO, CAPM

This time of year my allergies are in overdrive. They are even worse now that I have moved from Northern Illinois down to lower Alabama where spring is in full bloom in all its pollen glory. I recently read an article titled “It’s not your imagination; allergy season gets worse every year” by Umair Irfan. It states that 2021 is shaping up to be another brutal year for allergy sufferers. The change in the season to more favorable temperatures, as well as the large influx of people getting their COVID-19 vaccinations is prompting more people like me to head outdoors where we are met with the dreaded pollen.

It is estimated that over 50 million people suffer from allergies. Allergies are the result of the immune system overreacting to something that is otherwise benign. This leads to pesky but mild symptoms like hives, red itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, mild cough and shortness of breath. The effects of allergies are increasing over time as the length and intensity of pollen seasons grow. Higher pollen counts cause many to seek medical care to combat allergies. The cost of treating nasal allergies already tops $3.4 billion per year in the U.S. and asthma attacks induced by pollen lead to 20,000 emergency room visits a year.

Pollen is one of the most common allergens. It’s produced as part of the reproductive cycle of plants. The timing of pollen production varies depending on the plant species, with trees peaking in the spring, grass over the summer, and ragweed in the fall.

Here are some of the most common allergy ICD-10 codes:

  • J30 – Vasomotor and allergic rhinitis
  • J30.0 – Vasomotor rhinitis
  • J30.1 – Allergic rhinitis due to pollen
  • J30.2 – Other seasonal allergic rhinitis
  • J30.5 – Allergic rhinitis due to food
  • J30.8 – Other allergic rhinitis
  • J30.81 – Allergic rhinitis due to animal (cat) (dog) hair and dander
  • J30.89 – Other allergic rhinitis
  • J30.9 – Allergic rhinitis, unspecified

Recently I have been hesitant to go out in public when I am having a bad allergy day, as I do not want others to think I have COVID-19, as some of the symptoms do overlap. There is nothing worse than being indoors and having to blow my nose or cough into my arm, then feeling as if all eyes are on me and I must flee back out into the outdoors where the tree pollen awaits to make me feel even worse.

Many are truly concerned about experiencing these symptoms, as they are unsure if they have allergies, COVID-19 or some other type of virus. I highly recommend speaking to your physician if you are feeling unwell and unsure if your symptoms are allergy related or COVID-19 related. Minimize your exposure to others until you are certain you are only suffering from allergies. If you have young children, visit the pediatrician to rule out COVID-19 and inform your child’s school about the allergies, so they won’t send your child home with suspected COVID-19.

Below is a list of ways to minimize your allergy symptoms, published by Mayo Clinic:

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers

To reduce your exposure to the things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms (allergens):

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
  • Delegate lawn mowing weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
  • Remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Don’t hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
  • Wear a pollen mask if you do outside chores.

I wish my fellow allergy suffers good luck as we press our faces against the living room window, watching our loved ones mow the lawn, weed the garden and plant our new springtime flowers. On second thought, remaining inside for these chores does not sound like a bad idea at all.

Kelly Long is a clinical development analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.

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