Jill Poole

Tree pollen season is starting to peak in Iowa, prompting some allergy sufferers to question whether their health troubles are routine or something more sinister.

Doctor Jill Poole, an allergist in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says coronavirus shows itself through signs that are much different from seasonal allergies.  “The symptoms we most commonly see are going to be itchiness and sneezing, those are your classic spring allergy symptoms,” Dr. Poole says. “That differs from the coronavirus which is usually going to be marked by new symptoms of shortness of breath, a dry cough, and a fever.”

Between 20 and 40% of all Americans have seasonal allergies, so they’re fairly common. Poole says some people are so caught up with following coronavirus, they forget to use common sense and don’t realize the clear contrasts between allergies and COVID-19.

“One way to know the difference is to be aware of your own history,” Poole says. “Most people who had allergies last year will have them again this year. If every year, you start noticing these symptoms, expect that to be what it is this year again. But if you have new symptoms, that’s when there’s cause for concern.”

With all of the disruptions in our daily lives because of the pandemic, many Iowans are under more stress, which Poole says can impact all sorts of chronic diseases. “Stress can certainly affect allergies and asthma,” she says. “I would advise people to try to get control, control helps people deal with stress. Know what your symptoms are, know your own history, and make sure you are supplied with your allergy medications.”

Tree pollen is usually at its worst in Iowa during April through June. Poole suggests you -not- leave your windows open, as that lets the pollen in. Also, if you’ve been outside exercising or doing yard work, shower once you get back inside and change your clothes.

Poole is an allergist at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.