Three maladies have collided in one season: the flu, seasonal allergies, and COVID-19.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh area has staked its claim to fame on the confluence of our three rivers.

But there is a different confluence brewing in the river valley’s right now and it’s a confluence of maladies.

Allergies, the Flu, and Coronavirus.

With so many people having to answer questions about their health before they can go to work or school, how do you tell the difference?

Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Brian Lamb from Allegheny Health Network says there are commonalities between these things that make us feel lousy but there are also significant differences.

He says allergy sufferers should think back to their symptoms of the past.

“When we talk about allergies we’re usually talking more of congestion and so we’re talking about headache we’re talking about nasal congestion we’re talking about sinus drip,” he explained. “We’re talking about, you know, known exposures with runny eyes. When we’re talking about the viruses and the viruses are the flu. And of course, COVID-19, those tend to have a slightly different presentation, you tend to have fevers with those so low-grade fevers up to 100.4, you tend to have more of a dry cough, you tend to have more muscle aches, and it’s usually more of a systemic illness, that’s associated with that.”

So do you really need to stay home if you are suffering from allergies?

Dr. Lamb says, “If it’s just your allergies, you know that your allergies and are responding to your allergy medication or your normal regime, you may not have to stay home. However, that’s the difficult situation. When we think of our normal American mentality it’s to go to work no matter what. What we’ve found this year is that that’s dangerous. Most people don’t do that because it’s a sign of weakness. Staying home and taking care of yourself, protects not only you, but it protects all of the people you work with and especially if you don’t know what it is that you’re suffering from. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and not be around other people.”

If you are in your workplace and you hear someone sneezing and hacking nearby Dr. Lamb says don’t assume they have allergies.

“That’s one of those situations where you need to protect yourself,” he said. “Unfortunately, you need to stay away from that person in the office, who has those symptoms.”

If you are wearing a mask and suffering from allergies Dr. Lamb says resist the urge to pull off the mask if you are going to sneeze.

“That’s one of the things you don’t want to do is take your mask off when you’re sneezing and coughing,” he cautioned. “I know it’s disgusting. But that’s what the mask is for and that’s actually when you need your mask, the most. So when you’re coughing, when you’re sneezing, that barrier is such a protection for other people that you want to leave that on.”

Finally, Dr. Lamb says use common sense in the interest of everyone around you.

If you don’t feel well and aren’t certain of what you have, stay home.