Allergies or COVID-19? San Antonio school nurses face dilemma when students return on campus

Board certified allergist: Both illnesses 'mimic each other'


SAN ANTONIO – When students return to campus, any cough, sneeze or scratchy throat will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, said Tara Dye, R.N., assistant director of health services for the Northside Independent School District.

Dye said the 150 school nurses caring for at least 106,000 students will be asking, “Is it allergies or COVID-19?”

She said before a student is sent home, the nurses will check with school administrators, and if needed, consult with the Metropolitan Health District.

The students’ parents will be urged to seek medical advice, she said. It will be up to the physician to recommend testing for COVID-19, or clear the student to return to school with a note from the doctor.

The dilemma that school nurses will likely face is because “COVID and allergies can really mimic each other,” said Dr. Kirk Waibel, a board certified allergist with Aspire Allergy and Asthma.

“Even the CDC has listed things like nasal congestion and cough as potential COVID symptoms  but they’re, of course, also allergy symptoms,” Waibel said.

He said as an example, a fever may be strep throat.

But Waibel said testing is becoming more "sophisticated" with quicker results in order to tell the difference.

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