Most of us used to take them for granted: The sounds of dry coughing. Knuckles wiping across bare noses. Used tissues. But with nearly two years of antiviral vigilance under our belts, many students may be feeling a little extra cautious this allergy season.
For the most part, however, COVID-19 symptoms and the regular trappings of hay fever hold quite a few key differences among them. According to nurse Mary Toledo-Treviño, signs of the latter without the former shouldn’t be cause for concern.
While seasonal allergies are pretty far from comfortable, Ms. Toledo-Treviño says COVID-19 can make stuffy noses and itchy eyes look like a day at the spa. For those afflicted, symptoms will likely be quite a bit more debilitating.
“COVID symptoms are definitely a lot more particular,” Ms. Toledo-Treviño said. “With seasonal allergies, you could get a headache from congestion, but if you’re talking about body aches, fevers, chills — especially fevers and chills — that’s not something you deal with with seasonal allergies.”
Moreover, Ms. Toledo-Treviño says context matters. If you spent open time making dandelion crowns on the Midway with your (masked and vaccinated) friends, only to find yourself feeling a bit funny during fourth period, don’t jump to any earth-shattering conclusions. Additionally, she says it’s important to take both past and present circumstances into account, including any previous experience with perennial, seasonal discomfort.
“Sometimes it’s really helpful to know family history,” Ms. Toledo-Treviño said. “If your parents have a history of seasonal allergy symptoms, it’s quite possible that, especially as you’re getting older, you may develop them yourself.”
Malcolm Taylor, a senior, ended up testing for COVID-19 following a medical recommendation. The test came back negative, but he says it wasn’t just his initial cold symptoms that caused him concern.
“At first I didn’t think it was that bad of a cold, because I only had a sore throat, but the day after I got tested, I had all the symptoms,” Malcolm said. “I had body aches, I couldn’t get out of bed, I was super out of it.”
Like Ms. Toledo-Treviño, however, he encourages others experiencing symptoms to get rest, drink hot beverages, and most importantly, take things one day at a time.
“I’d say, don’t freak out,” he said. “That was part of what made my recovery worse. I was really thinking hard about it, really overthinking it. As soon as you can, go get tested. That’s the largest relief you can give yourself.”
All in all, given the medical reality of each condition, Ms. Toledo-Treviño says this probably wouldn’t be such a fraught conversation were it not for the power of post-lockdown anxieties. That said, she validates student concern and hopes to act as a transparent and familiar resource — in the coming season and beyond.
“I think it’s great that students are hyper-aware and want to be educated as much as possible,” Ms. Toledo-Treviño said, “but I think in this day and age it’s quite responsible for our students to be mindful.”