New Covid FLiRT variant in UK mimics hay fever symptoms

A member of the clinical staff wears personal protective equipment (PPE) as she cares for a patien
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An expert has issued a warning that many Brits who believe they're dealing with hayfever could actually be facing something far more serious.

As the new Covid FLiRT variant continues to spread across the UK, Brits are being urged to distinguish between typical summer hay fever symptoms and those of the contagious strain of the virus that brought the world to a standstill in 2020. This summer is witnessing an unusual surge in stuffy noses and heavy coughs as high pollen levels collide with the rise in Covid variants, putting the nation's respiratory health in jeopardy.

The FLiRT variant of Covid is believed to be responsible for a 24 per cent increase in hospital admissions related to the virus last month and currently accounts for about 40 per cent of all Covid cases in the UK. This worrying figure rises to 69 per cent of cases in the US.

Meanwhile, the number of people suffering from hay fever in the UK continues to rise each year. The NHS estimates that around 20 per cent of UK residents will experience reactions this summer, following a mid-June report which saw a 147 per cent increase in hayfever sufferers seeking NHS advice, reports the Daily Star.

Those who have previously suffered from hay fever are also reporting more severe symptoms this year. This is making it harder to differentiate between the strikingly similar symptoms of Covid, reports the Express, reports the Mirror.

Hay fever symptoms like red and itchy eyes, headaches, earaches, a loss of smell, sneezing, coughing, or having a runny or blocked nose are familiar to many.

However, there's a nasty bug impersonating hay fever affecting Brits; the FLiRT virus variant is to blame for spreading similar symptoms, including fevers, persistent coughs, sore throats, stomach issues, and changes in taste and smell that can easily be confused with those of the seasonal allergy.

University of Derby's exercise and sports lecturer Rebecca Owen told the Telegraph: "A lot of people have had Covid-19, and infections can make us more susceptible to allergies."

She observed that such infections might trigger an immune response known as mast cell activation syndrome, potentially leading to new hay fever cases post-Covid infection. But Owen clarified that proper testing is necessary to differentiate between the two conditions, noting: "They can activate the immune response in what's called mast cell activation syndrome, so while more studies are needed, it could be that some of those who have been infected with Covid may then develop hay fever."

However, she emphasised the importance of testing for an accurate diagnosis: "Only testing can truly tell hay fever apart from FLiRT."