How to tell the differences between allergies and COVID-19
Right now, it seems like every little sniffle or cough is cause for alarm. But before you worry that you could have the coronavirus/COVID-19, remember that it just might be allergies.
With grass pollen and temperatures on the rise, hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is also prevalent. Hay fever is caused by an allergic response and can cause cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, itchy eyes, congestion and sinus pressure.
The key seems to be looking at the symptoms together. Here are some clues as to what might be causing your symptoms.
- Check for a fever
A fever could mean the flu, or yes, even the coronavirus. A February 2020 report from the World Health Organization found that 88% of Chinese COVID-19 patients had a fever. Other symptoms were reported with the fever, including dry cough, body aches, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. It is rare to have a fever or body aches with seasonal allergies.
- Typical allergy symptoms
Allergies normally don’t come with shortness of breath or diarrhea. The common cold may include sneezing and a cough.
“Seasonal allergies include itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing. Sometimes you can get an irritated throat, especially in the morning if you’ve had drainage,” said Mary Rademaker, M.D., executive medical director for Norton Immediate Care Centers and Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens.
- Asthma and allergies
If you already know you have allergies or asthma, it’s best to stay on top of your medications. Use your inhaler, for instance, if you have asthma. Continue taking regular allergy medicines, either those prescribed by your doctor or over-the-counter treatments.
“If you have a lot of sensitivity to environmental allergies, it’s not a great idea to go out and work in your yard all day, for example,” Dr. Rademaker said. “Use over-the-counter medicine like antihistamines. There are also inhaled steroid nasal sprays. If you feel like your allergy symptoms get out of control beyond what you can pick up over the counter, I would suggest making a phone call or a telehealth visit to your primary care doctor.”
- Typical COVID-19 symptoms
One of the hallmark symptoms of the coronavirus is shortness of breath.
“The COVID-19 virus tends to cause more flu-like spectrum symptoms, more body aches, fever, lower respiratory symptoms, dry cough,” Dr. Rademaker said.