Bay Area wildfire smoke: Here's how to differentiate asthmatic reaction and COVID-19 symptoms

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As Bay Area residents look ahead to an expected heat wave over the Labor Day weekend, many are already having a tough time because of the fires and the resulting air quality. Furthermore, it can be challenging to differentiate between symptoms related to COVID-19 and other respiratory issues.

"For asthma exasperations, you typically don't have a fever, whereas viral exasperations, you may or may not have a fever," said Dr. Sharon Chinthrajah, a professor at Stanford School of Medicine who is also a practicing physician at the university's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research.

VIDEO: Bay Area shrouded in smoke as Northern California wildfires rage
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From Oakland to Point Reyes, smoke enveloped the Bay Area as fires scorched Northern California.


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Although it might be tempting to meet with others outside of one's household during the holiday break, health officials say you can continue to reduce your risk by sheltering in place at home, which can also provide peace of mind.

Chinthrajah added, "Fever would make me think this is a viral infection. If they had any sort of GI illness, which has been noted with COVID-19, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea... that might help distinguish that between symptoms from the poor air quality or a viral exasperation."

With it being so early into the fire season, health experts say now is the time to make sure that you have enough medication refills on hand, especially if you suffer from allergies, asthma, or heart disease.

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"Poor air quality can exasperate underlying conditions," said Chinthrajah. "It really comes down to being a good detective and connecting with your healthcare provider."

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