How to Know Its Allergies or Covid

In today’s world, with every sneeze, cough, or tickle in the throat, many people wonder: do I have COVID-19? For the millions of allergy sufferers across the country, this question gets a little more complex: allergies or COVID-19 (aka coronavirus), or maybe a cold or the flu? The following are ways to find out if you have allergies, a cold or the flu, or if you should call your doctor and get tested for COVID-19.

For any non-emergency health problem, contact your doctor or visit an urgent care center where doctors can examine you and determine the best treatment. The symptoms of COVID-19 vary widely and can range from mild to severe.

ALLERGIES

Allergy symptoms range from mild to severe and can occur seasonally or be present throughout the year. In patients with asthma, allergies can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Allergies are caused by an overreaction of your immune system to normal things in your environment, such as pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander, and they are not contagious. Medications can usually treat your symptoms, and allergy immunotherapy – allergy shots – can often help patients find long-term relief.

Allergy Symptoms VS COVID-19 Symptoms

Throughout the US, pollen has started to bloom and cause typical symptoms in those with allergies right as we have seen the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Allergies typically cause nasal symptoms such as a runny nose and sinus congestion but do not usually result in a fever, as is found with coronavirus or the flu. While some symptoms of the coronavirus overlap with allergies, there are several differences.

It’s important to note that this article is not intended to provide comprehensive medical advice. If you have concerns, please always contact your doctor and use general best practices.

The Symptoms of the Coronavirus

According to the CDC, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Coronavirus is spread through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact. We recommend following the CDC guidelines and those of your local health department to prevent the spread of the virus.

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Symptoms of Allergies

Symptoms of seasonal allergies range from mild to severe and occur seasonally. The most common include:

  • sneezing
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • watery and itchy eyes
  • itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
  • ear congestion
  • postnasal drainage

Less common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing

Allergies are caused by a response in the immune system and are not contagious. Medications can treat your symptoms, and immunotherapy can help those with allergies find relief. 

Take a look at our comprehensive chart below detailing the differences between the flu, allergies, and cold. Then, take a quiz provided by the CDC to see if your symptoms warrant medical attention for COVID-19.

SYMPTOMSCOLDFLUALLERGY
FEVERRareHigh (102-104°F) last
3-4 days
Absent
HEADACHERareProminentCommon
ACHES, PAINSSlightUsual; often severeNever
FATIGUE,
WEAKNESS
Quite MildCan last up to 2-3
weeks
Common
EXTREME
EXHAUSTION
NeverEarly and prominentUnusual
STUFFY NOSECommonSometimesCommon
SNEEZINGUsualSometimesCommon
SORE THROATCommonSometimesSometimes
CHEST
DISCOMFORT,
COUGH
Mild to Moderate,
hacking cough
Common, can become severeSometimes
COMPLICATIONSSinus congestion
or earache
Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threateningAsthma, ear infection, sinusitis, bronchitis, nasal polyps
PREVENTIONNoneAnnual vaccination; antiviral drugsControlling environment
TREATMENTOnly temporary
relief of symptoms
Antiviral drugs 24-48
hours after onset of
symptoms
Controlling
environment,
medication, allergy
injections
OCCURRENCE3-4 times yearlyOnce yearlySeasonally/
Repeatedly

KEY POINTS TO DETERMINE ALLERGIES OR COVID-19 INFECTION

1) Time line and past history.

  • Often people with allergies have a history of seasonal allergies.
  • Allergy symptoms tend to be more long-lasting than viral symptoms.

2) Allergy symptoms often respond to allergy medications.
3) Allergies typically make people itchy. Itchiness is not a symptom of viral illness.
4) Patients with allergies do not develop a fever. Often people with COVID-19 do.
5) Patients with allergies may also have asthma, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. COVID-19 typically does not cause wheezing.

Is a runny nose a symptom of Covid?

Some people with COVID-19 may sometimes experience additional symptoms, such as: runny or stuffy nose. sore throat. headache.

How can I help a family member with COVID-19 at home?

The ill person should stay in a separate room. If this is not possible, then keep at least a 1-metre distance from them. The sick person and anyone else in the same room should wear a medical mask.

Provide good ventilation in the room of the ill person and shared spaces, and open windows if possible and safe to do so.

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