Just as life is beginning to return to some semblance of “new normalcy,” allergy season is upon us – and with alarmingly coronavirus-like symptoms. The good news is there are things you can do to determine whether you or a family member have allergies or something else.
Before we outline some of the differences between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms, we urge you to contact your primary healthcare provider if you are at all concerned. While this article is intended to provide helpful information, it is in no way a substitute for professional medical assessment and diagnosis of your symptoms or overall health.
Quick Symptom Review
First, let’s do a quick review of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 compared with those associated with allergies.
Common Symptoms Of COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell/taste
- Loss of appetite
Less Common COVID-19 Symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
Common Allergy Symptoms:
- Red, itchy/burning, watery eyes
- Itchy throat/nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat from postnasal drip
- Ear/sinus congestion
Less Common Allergy Symptoms:
- Headache (usually associated with sinus congestion/stuffiness)
- Wheezing (particularly in the presence of the allergen, such as being outside when people are mowing or working in your garden, etc.)
- Shortness of breath
Ask yourself the following questions to help you determine whether you are experiencing seasonal allergies, or whether symptoms are more like COVID-19 or another cold or flu.
Do You Typically Have Allergies This Time Of Year?
Allergies can strike at any time. Some people get them their entire lives, others get them when a particular type of grass or pollen is blooming more abundantly in a given season or year. If you are someone who tends to get allergies during the spring and early summer, self-check your current symptoms with the ones you are used to from previous allergies.
If you or a family member suffers from allergies, visit our post Eye Allergies: 11 Tips to Avoid Symptoms.
Do you have a preferred treatment method such as using a neti pot, taking over-the-counter allergy medicine, steroidal nasal sprays, or an allergy-specific prescription? If so, use those and see if you find relief. If you do, your symptoms are just a sign that another allergy season is upon you, and you are probably not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Are Your Eyes Red, Burning, Itchy, Watery?
While it’s true that COVID has been linked to pink eye infections, pink eye is a more rare COVID-19 symptom. Red, itchy, watery eyes are more likely to be caused by seasonal or environmental allergies, which we refer to as allergic conjunctivitis. Eyes reacting to allergens typically have consistently clear, teary runoff, whereas a bacterial or viral eye infection – such as pink eye – typically causes white, cream, yellowish, or greenish discharge.
When patients experience persistent red, burning/itchy, or watery eyes as the result of allergies, it is often accompanied by additional allergy symptoms such as sneezing, an itchy throat, running nose, etc.
Do You Have A Fever?
Allergies are tricky because the immune response they ignite in your body can lead to a hyper-inflammatory response. The body goes a bit haywire trying to help, and the result is a long list of symptoms that are difficult to decipher from other viruses or the common cold.
Fever, however, is not a typical allergy symptom. If you do not own a thermometer, we recommend purchasing one at your local pharmacy, grocery store, or online (if you are the one with potential cold/flu symptoms, order online, or send someone else to the store on your behalf).
While a “normal” human body temperature is widely stated as 98.6º F, the typical body temperature range is from 97º to 99º. If your temperature is consistently 99º F or higher, you are running a fever. Most fevers associated with COVID-19 are 100º or higher and last for two or more days. A fever is the most obvious signal to your doctor that your symptoms are related to an infection, rather than allergies. Only a test can determine whether an infection is due to COVID-19 or allergies or something else.
Is Your Cough COVID-19 Or Allergies?
While allergies can cause a cough, especially if your lungs or respiratory tract become irritated, coughs are a less common symptom. One of the unique things about COVID-19 coughs is that they are dry, rather than wet. If you have a cough, it’s worth checking in with your healthcare provider’s 24/7 nurse hotline.
Are You Experiencing Shortness Of Breath?
While allergies can irritate the lungs enough to make you wheezy or short of breath, most people with seasonal allergies know to expect it this time of year. In more severe cases, your physician may have even prescribed you with an inhaler or breathing treatment of some kind.
With COVID-19, shortness of breath is typically accompanied by a fever (as mentioned above) and other typical COVID-19 symptoms. In more severe cases, this may also include chest pain or pressure and a bluish tinge to the lips or face as the result of oxygen deprivation.
Do Not Hesitate To Contact Your Doctor
Again, one of the best things you can do to provide peace of mind is to call your general healthcare practitioner or the 24/7 nurse hotline. They’ll review your symptoms and ask additional screening questions. If they feel your symptoms could be COVID-19 or another cold/flu virus, they’ll schedule an appointment for testing. Otherwise, they’ll discuss potential allergy remedies to help you weather the season.
If red, runny, or burning eyes are an issue for you, you are also welcome to contact us here at the Atlantic Eye Institute where we can help you determine whether you have allergic conjunctivitis or a more serious eye infection. In the meantime, make sure to eat nourishing foods, drink plenty of water and steamy liquids, and get lots of rest to give your immune system the boost it needs to do its job.