As seasonal allergies do their work to irritate noses, throats and heads, you may be wondering whether you're experiencing allergy symptoms or the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19)). Although some symptoms overlap, the two conditions also demonstrate distinct differences.
Common allergy symptoms
When trees, grass and mold release allergens into the spring air, you may be one of the 50 million Americans whose bodies have a chemical response to these allergens.
As your body reacts, the most frequent allergy symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffed-up nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy throat or ears
- Rash or hives
Treatments range from over-the-counter pills and nasal sprays to allergy shots. Learn more about relieving sinus pressure and pain here.
How COVID-19 symptoms compare with allergy symptoms
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), primary symptoms for coronavirus are:
- Fever (at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and chills, also can occur.
A major difference between COVID-19 and allergies is that fever and flu-like symptoms do not typically occur with allergies.
A dry cough is common with coronavirus. It generally occurs with allergies only if you have significant nasal drainage that irritates your throat.
Tiredness can show up in people with both conditions, but it's generally more extreme with COVID-19. With allergies, fatigue is generally due to lack of sleep.
Shortness of breath can be a warning sign of a serious case of coronavirus. It also can occur if severe allergy symptoms progress into asthma and constrict the airways. If you have a history of allergies, you will most likely know whether to expect a mild or severe reaction to allergens.
Nasal congestion and runny nose can be a sign of allergy or the common cold, or less-frequent symptoms of mild coronavirus.
When to seek medical help
About 80 percent of people with coronavirus have a mild illness and are able to recover at home. There is no treatment specifically approved for the virus. Symptoms can start anytime between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Call for medical help immediately if you have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, new confusion or difficulty waking up, or bluish lips or face, according to the CDC. These can be signs of a more serious case of coronavirus.
If you have a fever, contact your primary care physician, who can advise you on whether to come in for an appointment or what to do next. Fever can also be a symptom of influenza A or B, and your doctor may perform a test for flu, especially now that we are entering flu season.
If other symptoms become severe or prevent you from functioning normally, call your doctor's office for advice.
Have more questions about allergies, coronavirus, the flu or other health concerns? A primary care provider can help! Schedule an appointment online with a one near you today.