This time last week I started trying to readjust to working from my office in Maynooth University but I’ve already had to put that on pause (hopefully temporarily).

Over the last several days I’ve been experiencing bouts of sneezing, a frequent runny nose, some sinus pressyre, and uncomfortably dry eyes. These seem to me symptoms of hay-fever (though it is a bit late in the year for that) or some other allergy, rather than Covid-19, but based on what I’ve read about the so-called Delta variant I phoned my GP.

I don’t have the more usual symptoms of Covid-19 (neither cough nor sore throat nor fever) – in fact I don’t really fall unwell at all apart from the sporadic sneezing – so my GP said he thought it was very unlikely to be the Coronavirus. I’m also fully vaccinated, though that doesn’t mean I can be infected. Nevertheless he recommended I self-isolate as a precaution for a few days to see what, if anything, develops. So that is what I am doing.

I’m supposed to be recording video material for orientation week, which I can do just as easily at home. To counter the sneezing I’ll just record everything in small chunks.

As for the symptoms, my money is on some kind of allergy, but I wonder what? I’ve never experienced hay-fever in late August before!

Anyway, I’m glad this has happened before the start of teaching: as we’re supposed to do lectures and tutorials in person from next month, a person who is self-isolating won’t be able to teach and we have so few staff it will be difficult to find cover…

Update: the likeliest explanation seems to be a fungal spore allergy, as the release of fungal spores is triggered by crop harvesting. Maynooth is in an agricultural area and August is harvest time. Allergens of this sort also thrive in humid weather which we certainly have had recently.

7 Responses to “Self-isolating…”

  1. When my university returned to in-person instruction, we had to fill out a survey every day asking whether we had experienced various symptoms. If so, we were required to get tested. On at least two occasions in the spring, I had symptoms that were quite clearly allergy symptoms, based on my past experience. But I answered the questionnaire honestly (of course) and got sent off for testing.

    Although the probability of my having covid based on those symptoms was quite low, it was a perfectly sensible precaution.

  2. Mugworth can cause hay fever at this time of the year

  3. Here in Minnesota, USA, we have some very irritating pollen in August.

    The biggest culprit for me is called Ragweed in the genus Ambrosia. Wikipedia says “Ragweed pollen is notorious for causing allergic reactions in humans, specifically allergic rhinitis. Up to half of all cases of pollen-related allergic rhinitis in North America are caused by ragweeds.” They also say, “Several species have been introduced to the Old World and some have naturalized and have become invasive species. Ragweed species are expected to continue spreading across Europe in the near future in response to ongoing climate change”

    Another pollen culprit here are the various species of Goldenrod which bloom in late August.

    I agree that your symptoms are likely hay-fever. Antihistamines work for me. I use a generic version of Benadryl, but it can make you drowsy (it is sometimes recommended as a mild sleep aid) and dopey. Probably not the best state of mind for an Astrophysics lecturer.

  4. […] a personal note, I am pleased to report that the mild symptoms I mentioned on Monday have completely disappeared and, to no surprise at all, my PCR test came back negative. It may or […]

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