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Allergies vs. COVID-19 symptoms: Which one do you have?

Symptoms such as coughing, headaches, sore throats and a runny nose are ailments of both allergies and COVID-19. Here is how to tell them apart

SHARE Allergies vs. COVID-19 symptoms: Which one do you have?
An illustration of COVID-19.

An illustration of COVID-19.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Every spring people start sneezing and coughing from seasonal allergies. The symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19. So, how do you know which one of the two you’re suffering from?

Why it matters: This is the third allergy season since the pandemic began, but this year has the fewest restrictions, such as masking and social distancing.

“The pollen counts are up throughout the country, and the symptoms can be quite similar,” board certified allergist, pediatrician and immunologist Dr. Anjuli Mehrotra told CBS News Thursday. 

Details: Here are the symptoms of allergies:

  • Congestion, loss of smell, redness, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing or stuffy nose.
  • Puffy eyes and redness.
  • Coughing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Itching.
  • Phlegm.
  • Throat irritation.

In the past, COVID-19 symptoms looked much different than allergies, dominated by:

  • A fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • As well as coughing, sore throat, body aches and loss of smell and taste.

According to Fortune Magazine, most coronavirus patients now have milder symptoms because of resistance to the virus through vaccination or previous infection.

State of play: “It’s quite possible that people could have what they think are allergy symptoms and actually have COVID,” Dr. Robin C. Colgrove, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard who works in the infectious disease division at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, told the magazine.

  • “The obvious public health implication is that they could be walking around, not realizing that they’re contagious, and not distancing or masking.” 

The bigger picture: More than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies every year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The differentiating factor: Shortness of breath, body ache and chills are not symptoms of seasonal allergies but COVID-19. Itchy or watery eyes are common in allergies.