These days, anytime you sneeze or cough, you probably receive some concerned looks from those around you. Seasonal allergies can plague you with some of the same symptoms as COVID. The overlap in symptoms can make you worry, especially because COVID can present with absolutely no symptoms at all. It’s confusing and worrisome, but there are some symptoms that can help you discern between allergies and COVID-19.
What’s the Difference in Symptoms Between COVID-19 and Allergies?
Craig P. Chase, M.D., a partner of Oviedo Medical Research, points out that while there is overlap in symptoms between allergies and COVID-19, there is one big difference.
“If you’re trying to differentiate COVID from allergies, probably the biggest thing is going to be a fever,” he says. “It has been one of the most prevalent symptoms of COVID-19. Whereas with allergies you almost never get a fever because it’s not an infectious etiology.”
Seasonal fall allergies can present with a number of symptoms. If you have asthma, allergies can flare up with wheezing and shortness of breath. Even without asthma, allergies can cause you to feel sick and some of the symptoms mimic the virus that causes COVID-19. For example, allergy symptoms can cause:
- Fatigue (mild)
- Itchy nose or throat
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Post nasal drip (which can cause a sore throat)
- Runny or stuffy nose
However, the symptoms for COVID-19 are both the same and different:
- Body aches
- Fatigue (extreme)
- Fever and chills
- Loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
- Sore throat
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report that the symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mile to severe, up to and including death. However, 90% of patients with COVID present with fever. Allergies do not cause a fever, although you can feel poorly as if you have a fever.
Dr. Chase says fever is the key differentiating factor with COVID-19.
“You’ll get the sneezing and a runny nose, maybe some itchy, watery eyes, and a cough, sometimes with allergies,” he states. “You’re not usually going to get the overall body aches. You’re not going to get the fever. That’s probably the biggest thing that’s going to differentiate those two.”
If you are worried you may have COVID-19, the best thing to do is always consult your physician. However, there are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine whether you’re feeling bad from allergies or COVID:
- Do you have a history of seasonal allergies?
- Have you been plagued with these symptoms for more than two weeks?
- Do your symptoms get better or go away when you take allergy medication?
- Are you itchy?
- Do you have a fever?
- Are you wheezing?
If you have a history of seasonal allergies or are taking a medication that seems to alleviate the symptoms, this is a good sign you don’t have COVID. If you’ve been fighting sneezing for a few weeks, that’s also a good sign; allergy symptoms seem to be longer lasting than viral illnesses like COVID. If you experience itchy skin, ears, nose, or eyes, this is a symptom of allergies. Finally, if you’re wheezing that is more likely to cause allergies, although COVID can cause respiratory distress that makes it very difficult to breathe. Out of all of these symptoms, however, it is a fever that is cause for alarm.
For any medical issue it is always good to consult a physician about your symptoms. Whether your symptoms are caused by allergies or COVID, treatments are available now that can help.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies trigger an overreaction in the immune response to things in your environment. It could be a food, pollen from plants, pet dander, or other environmental factors that cause an uncomfortable reaction in your body. When you are allergic, your immune system reacts by producing antibodies that view the pollen or dander or other allergen as a threat. This can inflame your sinuses, airways, digestive system, and skin. This can even be a life-threatening situation depending on the body’s reaction to the allergen.
Common hay fever can cause symptoms that seem similar to COVID, including coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. A food allergy can cause a tingling in the mouth or facial swelling. An insect sting can cause hives, localized swelling, and a tightness in the chest. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can require a trip to the emergency room. You can even have an adverse reaction to a medication you’re taking, which can cause some of these same symptoms. If you’re having a bad reaction to food, a sting, or medication, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or call 911, depending upon the severity of the symptoms.
What Causes COVID-19?
Conversely, COVID-19 is caused by a virus called the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The disease emerged in China in late 2019 and spread around the world. The illness triggers an upper respiratory tract infection that can affect your nose, sinuses, and throat. It can also infect your lower respiratory tract including your lungs and windpipe.
The disease can be mild or life threatening. By late 2020,the U.S. COVID-19 had emerged as the third leading cause of death in the United States.
How Can You Protect Yourself from COVID and Allergies?
The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to prevent or mitigate the symptoms. This could require you to avoid certain foods and medications, or to take an over-the-counter or prescribed medication to alleviate the symptoms.
Prevention is also key with COVID, which is why social distancing and wearing a mask are so important to halt the spread of this illness.
As with any illness, if you are worried about what you’re experiencing, medical professionals are standing by to help answer questions and provide the necessary treatment.
Oviedo Medical Research specializes in Phase II through IV clinical trials designed to yield the medications and vaccines to take care of your health. If you’re interested in joining us for a clinical trial, contact us.