Are my illness symptoms COVID-19 or allergies?

While the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing and the world is aiming to get back to normal, it is still a pandemic. And now that allergy season is coming up, you might be wondering if your symptoms are allergies or the more threatening coronavirus. Here, you’ll find out how to know what the cause of your symptoms is and what you can do about it.

COVID-19 vs. Allergies

COVID-19 and allergies are very different, even though some of the symptoms might look similar. Firstly, COVID-19 infection is caused by a virus. This virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets expelled when coughing, sneezing, laughing, singing, or talking. It can also be spread if a person touches a surface the virus has landed on.

After exposure, it usually takes 2-14 days before symptoms appear and another two weeks before they are resolved and the virus has run its course.

Vaccinations against COVID may not entirely prevent you from getting the virus, but vaccinated positive cases tend to be much milder than cases in the unvaccinated.

Allergies, on the other hand, represent the body’s reaction to a trigger like pollen, mold, or dust mites. When these make contact with the skin or are inhaled, the body sends signals to attack the particles. This attack causes the creation of histamines, which are the chemicals responsible for common allergy symptoms, like itching, sneezing, and runny nose.

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID can be a little unpredictable in how it affects different people, but in general, there are some common symptoms that show up in symptomatic cases:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Fatigue or body aches
  • Loss of smell or taste

The recent Omicron variant of COVID results in a few different symptoms, as well:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms can look a lot like COVID-19 symptoms, but they are due to different reasons. The most common allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Itchy ears
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Mild fatigue

How to Know

If you start experiencing any of the above symptoms, you might not know if you have COVID or allergies. To help you determine what the primary cause might be, consider the following:

  • History of allergies. If you’ve had seasonal allergies before, compare your current symptoms to previous ones.
  • Response to allergy medication. Allergy medication won’t work on COVID symptoms, even if they’re the same as allergy symptoms.
  • Exposure to positive patient or allergy trigger. Have you come into contact with someone who has tested positive? Do you have a known allergy trigger you have been around?
  • The presence of itchiness usually means allergies. COVID doesn’t cause itching, rashes, or hives.
  • No fever with allergies. COVID is usually accompanied by a fever.

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to get tested for COVID-19. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner you can stop the spread. Head to your nearest urgent care center for COVID testing or allergy treatment.