AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s officially allergy season, and pollen can not only affect your sinuses, but it may even worsen some post-COVID illnesses.
“In ear, nose, and throat, we certainly have noticed things [post-COVID] that affect the inner ear,” Dr. Wells, ENT, said. “More commonly it’s tinnitus, but there has been some hearing loss, and some balance, vertigo, dis-equilibrium. That’s much less. Tinnitus by far is more common.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, Augusta is one of the worst places in the county for pollen season, and pollen can intensify tinnitus, a condition where people hear a constant ringing in the ears.
“So allergies, sinus infections, but also allergies and the pollen that triggers those things, that can cause a lot of congestion in the nose and that can track up that Eustachian tube and really block up people’s ears. And so they can be more predisposed to having the tinnitus,” Dr. Wells said.
Tinnitus affects about 15 percent of people, and it may be intensified by COVID.
He says new tinnitus after COVID is less common than a worsening of the condition for people who had it before they contracted the virus.
“40 percent of those patients that had tinnitus [before COVID], said it was much worse,” Dr. Wells said.
He says there are factors other than the coronavirus itself that may be the cause for a worsening in the condition.
“Stress and anxiety make tinnitus worse. So having COVID is stressful. You have to quarantine, the whole loneliness and change of lifestyle. That brings a lot of those other factors in,” Dr. Wells said. “So we don’t know how much of it is that, or how much of it is the virus.”
Pollen allergens cause respiratory inflammation. Studies suggest this may make people more susceptible to airborne viruses, such as COVID and influenza.
“Because of the inflammation in the present condition, it’s easier for them to contract a viral or bacterial illness,” Dr. Wells said.
He says wearing a face mask outdoors during pollen season can make a big difference for people with pollen allergies.