Coronavirus symptoms: Are itchy eyes a sign of hay fever or COVID-19? Dr Hilary’s advice

Coronavirus symptoms are listed by the NHS as a new, persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. But symptoms don’t stop there – evidence has emerged of cases suffering from different sets of symptoms, including diarrhoea, a sore throat, headaches, a rash and conjunctivitis.


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But some of the symptoms of coronavirus could be mistaken for other, less serious conditions.

ITV Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenter Piers Morgan revealed at the weekend he mistook hay fever symptoms for the deadly COVID-19 infection.

On the breakfast show today, he said: “The lack of pollution because we’ve been in lockdown, there’s been no cars and anything, there’s been much cleaner air…it’s allowing the pollen to hit you in a much bigger void, if you like, than normal.

“The doctor who was treating me said he’s had so many people thinking they’ve got COVID-19, and in fact, they’ve got bad hay fever.”

Dr Hilary, who was also on hand, advised: “What we know is it’s been one of the driest Mays on record, so the pollen count is really high.

“And we also know that diesel particles particularly, pollution in other words, can combine with pollen in the atmosphere and drag it downwards.

“So there’s all sorts of reasons to do with pollution and the hot weather that hay fever is very common at the moment.”

To help distinguish whether you have coronavirus or hay fever, Dr Hilary added: “If you think about your symptoms, you’ll know as someone who’s had hay fever before what it feels like to have hay fever, all be it not so badly as this year.

“If you think about the eyes, they’re red and itchy with hay fever, very rarely with coronavirus.”

GMB presenter Susanna Reid jumped in to remind people conjunctivitis has been found to be a symptoms of coronavirus.

But Dr Hilary said this symptom isn’t very common, and has only been shown to affect 2 percent of patients with COVID-19.

Contrary to its name, you don’t get a fever with hay fever – one of the main symptoms of coronavirus.


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Dr Hilary said: “You do get a fever with coronavirus if it’s moderate symptoms to severe symptoms. You don’t with hay fever.”

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

The symptoms of hay fever are listed by the NHS as:

  • Sneezing and coughing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • Loss of smell
  • Pain around your temples and forehead
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Feeling tired

There’s currently no cure for hay fever but your pharmacist may be able to suggest treatments for your symptoms, such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.

The NHS advises to see a GO if your symptoms are getting worse or your symptoms do not improve after taking medicines from the pharmacy.

In response to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the health body advises: “It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery – visit their website, use the NHS app or call them.”

If you experience any of the symptoms of coronavirus 111 will tell you what to do and help you get a test iff you need one.

You can use the 111 online coronavirus service to do this. You can call 111 if you cannot get help online.

You should avoid going to places like GP surgeries, hospitals or pharmacies.

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