The coronavirus pandemic is constantly changing. This information was last updated on March 26, 2020

During this pandemic, it is important to take steps to prevent infection, but it is equally important to remain as healthy as possible. That's why the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center is taking these steps to minimize our patients' risk of exposure, so that you're comfortable with coming to our offices to maintain your health. The information below is specific for AASC patients and others with allergies or asthma, but also applies to all others as well. Please read through to the end to make sure you know everything you need to know about this unprecedented challenge to our health.

Are my symtoms allergy, bacterial infection or viral infection?

Unfortunately, this pandemic is taking place at the beginning of the tree pollen season, raising the question of whether you're having allergy symptoms or an acute infection (either viral or bacterial). Follow these tips to tell the difference between allergy or an infection:

  • Both coronavirus infection and allergy can cause sneezing, but allergies cause more sneezing fits (usually, only 1-2 sneezes at a time with viral infections). Allergies cause a lot more itching ‐ viral infections don't cause itching of the eyes, nose, and ears

  • Both can cause a dry cough, but a dry cough in an allergic patient with asthma does get better if you use your albuterol inhaler ‐ albuterol won’t help a viral cough

  • Cough that produces a lot of yellow or green secretions may be bacterial and should be evaluated to see if antibiotics might be appropriate. Most importantly, allergies do not cause fever. Ever. If you have a dry cough, are sneezing, and have a fever, it is likely viral. Stay home!

If based on the above, you think you have a viral infection but are so severely ill that you need medical attention, an outpatient clinic like AASC is not set up to help you. You should go to urgent care or an emergency department, but please call ahead to notify them that you are coming and that you have a severe viral respiratory illness.

Preventing virus transmission in our offices

When to wear a mask to the office

Virus transmission by respiratory droplets is less common, and wearing masks routinely does little to help against becoming infected. However, masks do prevent the spread of virus when infected people cough or sneeze, so if you are having these symptoms and are out in public, you should be wearing a mask to protect those around you. If you have an appointment and you are sneezing or coughing, please wear a mask when you come to our office, if you have one. Be sure to not use the kind with a valve on them because that defeats the purpose ‐ the air you breathe out needs to filter through the mask, and not go directly into the surrounding area.

If you don't have a mask with you, we ask anyone coming to AASC who is coughing or sneezing to please call us from the parking lot when you arrive, and we'll put a mask outside the office on the ledge for you to put on before you walk in. We apologize for the inconvenience, but since there is a lot of panic surrounding this pandemic, we're concerned that if we leave boxes of masks outside the office, they'll simply walk off and we won't have them for people who need them.

Wash your hands when you arrive at the office

The most important thing to do to prevent transmitting the virus or becoming infected is to keep your hands clean. We are therefore requesting that all patients wash their hands with soap for 20-30 seconds when they arrive at our office. If you are coughing or sneezing, please put the mask on before you wash your hands. Dry your hands with a paper towel, then use the paper towel on the door handle to open the door. If you are visiting our Greenfield office, wash your hands in the hallway restroom and use the paper towel to open the door to our suite - there is a wastebasket near the entrance to dispose of it. At our other offices, wash your hands in the restroom within the waiting room. Try hard not to touch your face with your hands and don't touch anything to the extent possible while you're in the office.

Other steps we are taking

As a medical practice, we always have our providers wash their hands before working with patients, and our staff wipe down surfaces with disinfectant between patients. We have continued these practices and increased our deep cleaning at the end of each day during this outbreak. In an effort to reduce traffic in the office, we are also scheduling our allergy shot patients instead of providing walk-in service to eliminate crowding in the waiting room. We are supporting social distancing by making sure we can all stay six feet apart in the waiting room. Finally, we have launched a Virtual Clinic to allow patients to be seen at home via secure HIPAA-compliant video chat when no in-office procedures are necessary.

This pandemic needs to be taken seriously, but there is no need for fear or panic. Taking these reasonable steps to protect yourself and those around you is the best strategy to contain this illness as rapidly as possible.

COVID-19 by the numbers

The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering tracks coronavirus cases. Please visit their interactive dashboard for the latest reports on coronavirus statistics worldwide.