In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, every sneeze, cough, or sniffle can cause immense panic. You may spin into an anxiety spiral, wondering, “Do I have COVID-19? How bad will it be? Do I need to get a test right away?” Given that fall is knocking on the door, along with the allergies that come with the season, it’s important to know the difference between allergy symptoms and those of COVID-19.
There are millions of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. Some allergy symptoms are closer to those of the flu or common cold. More often than not, allergy symptoms occur because of inflammation. It’s very common for the body to overreact to pollen, mold, or dust, especially in the fall and spring.
Symptoms Of Fall Allergies
Beginning in early August, ragweed releases pollen and causes an array of allergy symptoms until early October. During the fall season, it’s also common for mold spores to grow as trees shed their leaves. For some people, the decaying leaves on the ground can cause allergic reactions. Seasonal allergies can range from mild to severe as the immune system releases histamines. This natural reaction results in runny nose, nasal drip, water eyes, or itchy eyes and throat. The most common allergy symptom that isn’t likely with COVID-19 is sneezing. Reactions that last for a couple of weeks and occur in the fall months are most likely allergies. See the list of common fall allergies below:
- Runny nose
- Water and itchy eyes
- Ear congestion
- Itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
- Postnasal drainage
- Mild fatigue
Symptoms Of COVID-19
COVID-19, which is the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, spreads via respiratory droplets. People expel these droplets when breathing, sneezing, coughing, or talking. If people are near an infected person, they can inhale those droplets and become infected. If an infected person coughs or sneezes on a surface, someone who touches that surface and then touches their mouth, eyes, or nose can contract the virus. COVID-19 spreads rapidly in large crowds, especially when proper social distancing and masking practices are not in place. With the more contagious delta and mu variants in place, it’s even more important to practice proper safety measures. The most common symptoms that appear 2-14 days after exposure are below:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Severe fatigue
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
How To Determine Allergies Or COVID-19
In general, the key factors that differentiate symptoms of COVID-19 and allergies are fever and body aches. It’s very rare for fever or body aches to be allergic reactions or symptoms in allergy sufferers. One also has to pay attention to time line and past history of symptoms. People with allergies tend to have a long history of seasonal allergies, so they know what to expect. Additionally, allergies are more long-lasting than the viral symptoms.
If you take allergy medication, the symptoms subside. For example, itchy eyes are very common during allergy season, but they are not a symptom of viral illness. Itchy eyes can also go away fairly quickly with allergy medication. If you are worried about potential COVID-19 illness as opposed to seasonal allergies, there are many testing options available to the public. From rapid antigen and antibody tests to nasal PCR tests and cheek swabs, there is no shortage of COVID-19 tests. You can readily find them, and you may even find at-home test kits in some grocery stores.