Knowing the Difference Between COVID-19 and Allergies

Just because you are sneezing, or have itchy eyes, doesn’t mean you have COVID-19.

We have all been there just because we have one minor cough or headache and automatically think it’s COVID-19. However, there may be other reasons. With the spring season in full swing, allergy season is upon us as well.

COVID-19 and allergy symptoms can be quite similar, so how can we tell the difference?

Allergies present themselves as chronic symptoms with them being on and off for days, weeks, months or years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more common symptoms of seasonal allergies include itchy or watery eyes and sneezing.

David M. Cutler, M.D., family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline that, “Allergy symptoms tend to vary with the environment: worsening with exposure to dust, pollen, or animal dander, whereas cold symptoms tend to persist regardless of time of day, weather, locality, or other environmental factors.”

Normally with over-the-counter allergy medication, allergy symptoms tend to improve. Other less frequent and less common symptoms include wheezing, those that suffer from asthma may experience shortness of breath, and fatigue due to lack of sleep.

On the other hand, COVID-19 symptoms present key differences from those of allergies. According to the CDC, some of them include fevers and chills, muscle and body aches, loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in which symptoms appear two to 14 days after being exposed.

Now, the confusion may arise is the commonalities between allergies and COVID-19.

According to the CDC, the common symptoms for both include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose.

Jess Pak, Associate Lifestyles Editor of The Outlook and junior communication student, explained her personal experience with differentiating allergies from COVID-19.covid 2

 “As someone who got COVID-19 during allergy season and thought it was just allergies, there are definitely some ways to decipher the two,” Pak said. “The first thing that made me think that I had COVID-19 is the fact that I had a slight shortness in breath and a mucus-y cough. Usually, allergy symptoms are more cold-like, and I had no congestion or anything like that, so I assumed it was COVID-19 and not allergies.”

She continued, “The second thing I noticed is the fatigue and brain fog that comes with it. It’s not common for someone with allergies to develop those symptoms so that was a big indicator as well. If you’re always unsure if you have COVID-19 or just allergies, get tested. Better safe than sorry in my book.”

The main difference between the two is that COVID-19 may cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, while seasonal allergies do not unless there is an existing respiratory condition that can trigger it by allergen exposure.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it is important to track your symptoms, know which symptoms are common, and which ones are new. If you present symptoms that are not typically associated with your allergies, it is important you seek medical attention for further diagnosis. Since COVID-19 and allergies present very similar symptoms, the CDC recommends getting tested to discard the option of it potentially being COVID-19.

MayoClinic says, “The best way to prevent seasonal allergies is to avoid your known triggers. If you’re allergic to pollen, stay inside with windows and doors closed when pollen is high.”

As for COVID-19, the CDC recommends everyone to wear a face mask, maintain six feet apart, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoid crowds, and get vaccinated if possible.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still far from over, any symptom presented may cause one to worry. However, knowing the different symptoms between both allergies and COVID-19 is extremely useful in reducing panic and stress.