A massive cloud of dust drifted off of Africa and is making its way all of the way to the Gulf South. 

It sounds crazy, but truthfully, this happens every year.

But the cloud causes enhanced allergy symptoms in sufferers, and symptoms that, ironically enough, could mimic those of COVID-19. 

So Lady of the Sea General Hospital has issued guidance this week aimed to educate patients on when it's time to seek a COVID-19 test and when this pesky allergies are just innocent, every-day occurrences.

Dr. Amanda Rogers said allergy sufferers could see an uptick in symptoms this week with the dust over our area - which will last throughout the week.

"Allergy sufferers may notice that the dust causes their typical allergy symptoms to flair – runny nose, dry cough, sinus drip and pressure."

But Dr. Rogers also said that while many allergy symptoms mirror COVID-19 symptoms, there are also some very specific symptoms that are COVID-19 specific and are triggers that a problem is more serious than just allergies.

Fever, she said is the big tell-tale, and is a great indicator of a greater problem, but there are other slight differences that can educate locals on when an issue is or isn't serious. 

"Typically allergies do not cause a fever and COVID-19 most often does," Dr. Rogers said. "Other symptoms that separate COVID-19 from allergies include body aches and chills and a loss of sense of taste or smell. While COVID doesn't always cause a runny nose with sinus pressure, it can. Other symptoms that may overlap include sore throat and headache." 

Dr. Rogers said she wants patients to know that it's OK to be concerned, and if in doubt, Lady of the Sea is here to help.

Dr. Rogers said if a local is concerned and unsure, they should call their physician to either seek an appointment or to get reassurance that a symptom is not severe.

"The question I often hear is 'When should I call my doctor?' The easy answer is if you are ever concerned, it is always OK to reach out to your doctor for reassurance and guidance," Dr. Rogers said. "But more specifically, if the symptoms you encounter are similar to your typical allergy symptoms and you do not develop a fever, then it is OK to stay at home and treat with your usual allergy medicines. If you develop any of the following; fevers, chills, loss of sense of smell or taste or worsening cough with shortness of breath, then it's best to reach out to your primary care provider for further medical care."

The cloud is supposed to arrive late this week and into early next week. 

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