During the current pandemic, anyone with a sneeze, cough or slight throat discomfort may wonder if they have COVID-19. For allergy sufferers, it can be complicated to tell the difference between symptoms due to allergies and COVID-19. This blog discusses ways to tell if you are suffering from allergies or COVID-19.
Allergy symptoms range from mild to severe and can occur seasonally or be present year-round. In patients with asthma, allergies can cause cough, wheeze and shortness of breath. Allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to normal things in your environment such as pollen, dust, mold and pet dander, and are not contagious. Medications can typically treat allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergy symptoms are typically caused by pollens or outdoor molds. Tree pollen season begins as early as March, typically peaks in April and ends in May. Grass pollen season usually begins in April, peaks in May and ends in June. Weed pollen season usually begins mid-August, peaks around Labor Day and ends with the first frost in October. Outdoor mold allergies occur anytime the ground is not frozen and often peak during periods of dampness in the spring and fall.
Common allergy symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy nose or ears
- Post-nasal drip (which sometime causes mild throat discomfort)
- Mild fatigue
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a viral illness spread through droplets via coughing, sneezing and close personal contact. Symptoms typically start between 2-14 days after exposure and will typically resolve within 14 days after onset. COVID-19 symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Even if a patient received a COVID-19 vaccine, it is still possible that he/she can get COVID-19. If a patient is vaccinated for COVID-19 and tests positive for COVID-19, his/her symptoms are expected to be milder.
Common COVID-19 symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Intense fatigue, body aches
- Loss of smell
Key Points to Determine Allergies or COVID-19
- Timeline and past history.
- Often patients with allergies have a history of seasonal allergies that occur during particular times of the year.
- Allergy symptoms tend to last longer (weeks to months) as compared to COVID-19 symptoms (days to weeks).
- Allergy symptoms often respond to allergy medications such as antihistamines or nasal steroid sprays.
- Allergies typically cause itching. Itchiness is not a symptom of COVID-19.
- Patients with allergies do not develop a fever. Many patients with COVID-19 develop a fever.
- Patients with allergies may also have asthma, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. COVID-19 does not typically cause wheezing.
Common Symptoms for Allergies and COVID-19
Common symptoms for allergies and COVID-19 are shown in the table below.
Responses in blue are specific for allergies. Responses in red are specific for COVID-19.
|Shortness of Breath||Sometimes||YES|
|Loss of Smell||NO||YES|
|Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea||NO||Sometimes|
Determining the difference between allergies and COVID-19 can be difficult for patients. This article describes symptoms that are specific to allergies and others that are specific to COVID-19, which can help patients determine the cause of their illness. As always, please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.