Pink eye? How to tell if it’s allergies, infection or coronavirus
In the midst of COVID-19, your eye allergies that crop up in the spring may be adding to your anxiety about your health. Are those watery eyes and stuffy nose symptoms of the new coronavirus? John Siddens, DO, Division Chief of Ophthalmology, explained how to tell the difference.
“One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between allergy and coronavirus symptoms is to check your eyes. If they are red, watery and itchy, these are probably signs of allergies,” said Dr. Siddens. “Coronavirus symptoms generally do not cause those uncomfortable itchy, watery eyes. Another way to tell the difference is by the presence of fever. Allergy sufferers do not have fever as a symptom, while coronavirus patients often do.”
What’s the connection between pink eye, allergies and coronavirus?
There are some reports that people with coronavirus may develop pink eye (viral conjunctivitis). Their symptoms can look just like any typical allergic conjunctivitis symptoms, but Dr. Siddens said there are ways to tell them apart.
Allergic conjunctivitis – usually affects both eyes with itching, burning and redness. They may feel gritty like something is in the eye, and there may be some puffiness around the eyes. You will probably also have other allergy symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing. You typically have allergic conjunctivitis around the same time each year.
Viral conjunctivitis – is generally an isolated incident and may affect one or both eyes. It also causes burning, red eyes, but there is usually a watery discharge as well that may feel slightly thicker and stickier than tears.
Coronavirus – Doctors would be concerned about the possibility of coronavirus if you have conjunctivitis symptoms along with:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Bluish color to lips or face
- Chest pain or pressure
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of smell or taste
- A new sense of confusion
- Nausea or diarrhea
“If your eye allergy symptoms are not accompanied by the main symptoms of coronavirus, it’s more than likely you do not have coronavirus,” said Dr. Siddens.
Dr. Siddens said the first thing to do is to try treating your allergy symptoms as you usually do. Over-the-counter anti-allergy eye drops and lubricating eye drops are the first line of treatments for allergic eye problems. If these remedies do not help in a few days, you should call your eye physician. Your ophthalmologist or optometrist can discuss it with you on the phone, by virtual visit, or by seeing you in the office.
If your eye allergy symptoms do include coronavirus symptoms, call your healthcare provider right away for medical advice, especially if you have breathing issues, chest pain or pressure or fever.
Finally, remember these very important steps for taking care of your eyes and yourself:
- Wash your hands often and properly
- Avoid touching your eyes or your face
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