Is it allergies or COVID? With cases rising around Kansas City, doctors urge testing

·3 min read
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Cases of COVID-19 are rising again around Kansas City, marking what some local doctors are calling a new wave. But unlike the winter’s omicron wave, hospitals in the area are not overcrowded, and overall numbers are generally lower.

Your mind may also be playing tricks on you as the weather changes. Asking, “Is it a cold, is it allergies or is it COVID-19?” has been a discussion topic at a time when more people also have their guard down and are enjoying the warm weather.

COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, so what are some things you should look for during the summer?

We spoke to Dr. Sarah Boyd, an infectious disease physician on Saint Luke’s COVID Response Team for tips.

KEEP TESTING YOURSELF

Dr. Boyd shared that she and her team encourage people to continue testing for COVID-19 if they have symptoms, such as a fever, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, trouble breathing or a loss of taste or smell.

If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested five days after. Some people develop symptoms later than others and it’ll act as an extra step of monitoring yourself.

Even if you have mild symptoms and think everything is fine, Dr. Boyd recommended taking a test. With cases rising, it’s important for people to remain aware and take those precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones.

If you do test positive for COVID-19, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control says you should isolate yourself from everyone for at least five days after your positive test result or after you first started developing symptoms. If you begin to improve or you never had symptoms, you can leave isolation after those five days.

You should wear a mask for the next five days since you could be contagious. Continue to monitor your symptoms and if they get worse, seek medical care.

Everyone can get eight more tests shipped to your house from the U.S. government.

COVID OR ALLERGY SEASON?

You could be someone who hasn’t been in a large crowd in weeks and develop symptoms as the weather changes. You’re positive that it’s allergies, but the only way to tell for sure is if you get tested.

Dr. Boyd said she sees people who come in and say that they thought their runny nose or scratchy throat was allergies, but then they later develop more symptoms.

You won’t likely develop a fever from seasonal allergies, but the safest way to differentiate between the two is to test. If you think it’s just the flowers clogging your nose, you’re not taking those extra precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Boyd said.

If you test negative for COVID-19 and still have symptoms, you should reach out to a medical provider and do some additional testing. It could be influenza, which Boyd noted is floating around in the community.

TRAVEL WITH CARE

When you’re planning your summer vacation, take a look at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 map and make your decision. Be aware of your surroundings and do what you need to protect yourself, including wearing a mask in large crowds and staying up to date on vaccinations.

The community levels for Clay, Jackson and Platte counties are low, meaning it’s only recommended that you wear a mask and that you should stay up to date on vaccinations. The same is true for Wyandotte County.

For Johnson County, the community level is medium. If you’re at a higher risk for severe illness, you should talk to your medical provider for precautions, such as wearing a mask. You should also stay up to date with vaccination and get tested if you develop symptoms.

“I think that’s the main thing: to remain vigilant,” Dr. Boyd said. “If you have new symptoms, the best way to know is to get tested and to understand that COVID is still circulating in the community.”

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