Now that the snow has melted and the weather is heating up, many people are enjoying the outdoors. Although the warm weather has been enjoyed by many, others are experiencing seasonal allergies and illnesses.
A handful of students described their experience with allergies this semester. A student who wanted to remain anonymous said, “I have allergies towards cottonwood, and unfortunately, I have been around it this semester, and so I have been sneezing nonstop.” The student also added that the pollen definitely doesn’t help when referring to their allergies. “I have been very stuffy for the past couple of weeks, but luckily it hasn’t been to the point that I would have to miss class,” stated the student.
While many people associate stuffy noses and sneezing with allergies, there are also illnesses that cause similar effects. This makes telling whether someone is suffering from allergies or illness to be difficult. “The symptoms of an allergic reaction and some respiratory illnesses are very similar,” said Christine Vandenhouten, the chair of Nursing & Health Studies Academic Director at UW–Green Bay.
Vandehouten described the fundamental differences between allergies and illness, saying, “An illness or rather, infection occurs with an exposure to a pathogen virus, bacteria, fungus, etc. An allergy is an inappropriate response of the body to a substance that is not pathogenic. Common allergens include pollens, foods, insect venom, drugs, etc.”
UW-Green Bay has free access to The University Wellness Center located in the University Union. The Wellness Center is a partnership between UW-Green Bay and Prevea Health, where students can visit a nurse about any health concerns. There are two registered nurses and one nurse practitioner on staff who are able to see students. Here the nurses can recommend over-the-counter products, home remedies, or interventions that may be helpful.
The Wellness Center provides many different services. Students are able to get access to birth control, antibiotics, and other commonly used medications at a reduced cost. Tests for covid 19, mononucleosis, and strep throat can also be done free of charge at the Wellness Center.
Lily Coulter, a UWGB Housing Resident who recently had strep throat, is one student who utilized the Wellness Center here on campus, “I had strep throat. It was pretty awful, but I’m pretty sure it’s always just naturally worse for me because I almost died from it once. As soon as I got sick, I made an appointment at the Wellness Center and made sure I got the medication I needed so I didn’t get anyone else sick. I isolated myself for 12 hours as instructed to make sure nobody else got sick as well.”
One of the nurse practitioners at the Wellness Center is Michelle Cullen. Cullen is a nurse practitioner with Prevea that spends time between Prevea hospitals and the Wellness Center. Cullen agreed with Vandenhouten that it could be difficult to tell the differences between illnesses and allergies.
Cullen explained that “A thorough history of the illness and based on the answers to questions asked, the provider does their best to make the best diagnosis as there are some things that make it more likely to be allergies vs. illness.” Cullen went on to describe that “To have official allergy testing, you would need a referral or see an allergist. There are several in the Green Bay area. Each healthcare organization, Bellin, Aurora, and Prevea, has an allergist.”
While it isn’t always easy to identify whether patients are experiencing seasonal allergies or an illness, it is important to quickly take action by heading to the Wellness Center on campus or to the healthcare provider to identify the problem and receive the proper medication.