Social distancing is best practice. What does it mean for allergies?

April 17, 2020  

Sneezing a lot since you’ve been sheltering in place? Read on.

This is a strange and serious moment in history. Just a few months ago, almost no one had heard the term “social distancing.” Now, it’s part of our everyday vernacular—and our everyday lives. With shelter-in-place orders and social distancing measures in effect across many corners of the world, we’re all adapting to our new, more housebound lifestyles. And with that has come some unexpected side effects.

We’re not talking about quarantine memes, juggling conference calls with childcare, or increased wine intake. We’re referring to symptoms such as sniffles, sneezes, and itchy, watery eyes. And with COVID-19 spreading in communities worldwide, most of us are anxious and on edge. What are these symptoms? Why are they happening? Is it the flu, novel coronavirus, or allergies

For chronic allergy sufferers, these symptoms may feel familiar. For people experiencing these symptoms for the first time, or for whom allergies aren’t a frequent problem, they may be more alarming. Either way, it’s important to assess where you’re currently spending a whole lot of time. Because if you’re suddenly home all day instead of in an office or restaurant or other workplace, that means you could be soaking in allergic triggers 24/7 to which you're not normally exposed.

Remember that if you suspect you have COVID-19, call your provider first to let him or her know. In case of an emergency, call 911 or your country's local emergency services number. And if you’re experiencing any respiratory symptoms, do your best to completely self-isolate.


The average person’s home is a minefield of allergic triggers that can cause respiratory symptoms in individuals sensitized to these allergens. In the bedroom and on carpets and upholstered furniture, dust mites are a common problem. Indoor mold is another possibility, especially in more humid climates. And if you have a furry friend such as a cat or dog, it may be a great source of emotional support, but it's also filling your house with pet dander (yes, even the so-called hypoallergenic varieties).

Pause now and think about where you’re spending the most time in your house. Are you working from the upholstered couch with your dog curled up next to you? Are you in a carpeted office next to a set of dusty drapes your grandma gave you?

There’s no time like the present to do some spring cleaning and remove potential allergen sources. If the whole apartment seems overwhelming, just focus on the room where you spend the most time, or try to work somewhere without soft materials, carpets, and your cat napping directly on your face.

Maybe you’re dealing with the claustrophobia by going for a long walk or run every day. That’s great, as long as you’re staying more than six feet away from people who aren’t members of your immediate household. Getting outside and exercising are two of the best things you can do for your mental health.

But, be wary of spring, which is pollen season. If you’re suddenly sneezing a bunch, seasonal allergies are a likely culprit. Going outside for long stretches of time can expose you to all the spring pollen your geographical region has to offer. Across different parts of the states, spring allergy season can begin as early as February and last through the summer.

So what the heck should you do? 

Here are several steps to mitigate allergic symptoms in this new normal.


Read our post about allergic triggers, which provides more detailed advice on managing exposure to everything from dust mites to pollen to mold.


Call your healthcare provider to set up a telehealth or phone appointment to discuss your symptoms. This is especially important if you have asthma, as allergies and asthma go hand in hand. Especially now, it’s essential to reduce the underlying allergic inflammation that can lead to allergic asthma.


Only once it is safe and appropriate to do so, as determined by local authorities and your healthcare provider, make an appointment (over telehealth or in-person) to have your provider order an allergy blood test. Along with your symptom history, getting an allergy test is the best way to develop a full picture of all your allergic triggers. This will make exposure management much easier for you. After all, if it turns out that you’re allergic to dust mites but not the dog, that’s one less thing to worry about.


While the pandemic persists, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC).


Keep Calm and Stay Informed

Remember that we are in this together. Taking these small steps to create the best work-from-home environment for you and your family may help reduce symptoms in these uncertain times. It's currently more important than ever to be mindful of your health—and to take care of the small things before they become big things. 

Tools for Understanding Allergies


Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.