Expert's warning as hay fever symptoms are mistaken for new Covid variant

It's not hay fever, it's Covid (stock)
-Credit: (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

An expert has issued a stark warning to Brits who believe they're merely suffering from hay fever, suggesting their symptoms could be indicative of something far more serious.

As the new Covid FLiRT variant continues its 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 hay fever 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, which include red, itchy or watery eyes, headaches, earaches, a loss of smell, and the more common sneezing, coughing, or experiencing a runny or blocked nose, are being confused with those of a nasty bug sweeping the nation. This bug mimics hay fever but is in fact the contagious FLiRT variant wreaking havoc, presenting with fever, persistent coughs, sore throats, stomach upsets, and changes in taste and smell, much like the seasonal allergy.

Rebecca Owen, an exercise and sports lecturer at the University of Derby, shared insights with the Telegraph: "A lot of people have had Covid-19, and infections can make us more susceptible to allergies."

She continued, explaining the potential link between past infections and increased allergy susceptibility: "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, Owen emphasised the importance of testing to distinguish between hay fever and the FLiRT variant.