SDC Dotti Seasonal Allergies HERO


Seasonal Allergies or Respiratory Virus? How to Tell the Difference

Spring has sprung in South Florida, and plants and trees are in full flower wherever you turn. It’s a beautiful time of year, to be sure, but also one that many people dread because rising pollen counts can trigger seasonal allergies.


Symptoms such as congestion, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes are all common with allergies but they also overlap with those caused by colds and other respiratory viruses such as RSV, influenza and COVID-19.


Resource editors spoke with Andrea Dotti, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner with Baptist Health Urgent Care Express in Coral Springs, where she assesses, diagnoses and treats patients for a wide variety of conditions. Ms. Dotti explained how to differentiate between allergies and a virus once you start feeling these symptoms.


Andrea Dotti


Andrea Dotti, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner with Baptist Health Urgent Care Express in Coral Springs


Resource: What is our peak allergy season, typically, and how has it been this year? 


Ms. Dotti: Our allergy season here in South Florida peaks between January and May. We’ve already had a heavy mango bloom this Spring, which can aggravate allergies for a lot of people. We’ve been seeing a high volume of patients with allergy symptoms. Many of them come to Baptist Health Urgent Care for treatment because they mistake their cold symptoms with allergies.  


Resource: How do you differentiate between seasonal allergies and colds or other respiratory viruses? 


Ms. Dotti: Allergies and common colds or respiratory viruses share common symptoms, including congestion, cough, sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Usually when a patient has a virus or common cold, they also present with fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, hoarseness, headache and middle-ear infections.


Resource: How do treatments differ for allergies and for colds? 


Ms. Dotti: Allergies are treated with second-generation antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec. There also are olopatadine eye drops for eye allergies and a nasal antihistamine called azelastine, both of which are available over the counter (OTC). 


Colds are treated by managing the symptoms with pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen; cough suppressants; nasal sprays; increased fluid intake and rest. For influenza (Flu A or B), we typically treat that with antivirals such as Tamiflu.  


Resource: COVID-19 and influenza are still circulating in South Florida. What are you seeing at Baptist Health Urgent Care Express? 


Ms. Dotti: We’ve noticed a decrease in numbers so far this year, which is good news, but they’re both still out there. People with compromised immune systems should always exercise caution when with groups of people or out in public.


Resource: Is it possible for someone to have COVID-19 or flu and seasonal allergies at the same time? 


Ms. Dotti: I’ve seen patients present with COVID-19 and flu at the same time – “flurona,”as some have called this. Patients who also suffer from allergies could conceivably present with symptoms of all three, although at that point it would be difficult to know which one caused which symptoms.


Resource: We’ve been reading about the human metapneumovirus lately. Should we be worried about this? 


Ms. Dotti: Metapneumovirus, which was discovered in 2001, is a virus that can cause upper and lower respiratory illness. Children, elderly and immunocompromised are the most susceptible population. It presents with cough, fever, nasal congestion and shortness of breath. Like other respiratory viruses, it is spread through coughing or sneezing or handling contaminated objects and then touching the eyes, mouth or nose. There is no antiviral for metapneumovirus but symptoms can be treated accordingly. Hand washing is the best way to prevent transmission.  


Resource: Any advice for those who prefer to self-treat seasonal allergies at home with OTC remedies? 


Ms. Dotti: People who suffer from seasonal allergies can try antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays. Be careful to avoid any triggers such as dogs, cats or dust. And if OTC medications are not helping, seek medical treatment.  


Resource: Why should someone seek medical treatment at Baptist Health Urgent Care or Urgent Care Express?


Ms. Dotti: First and foremost, our experienced staff at Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express provides the highest quality care, but we also treat each and every patient with the same care and compassion we would provide for a member of our own family. Most importantly, perhaps, is that we really try to listen to our patients so that we can see their “big picture” and treat them appropriately or refer them to a specialist as needed. If more in depth diagnostics are needed for care, all of our locations offer on-site labs and x-rays for your convenience.


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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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