It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19 — and with the omicron variant, it’s even more difficult.

Why it matters: With overlapping symptoms, people may be going about their days thinking they’re experiencing allergies when they might actually have COVID-19, resulting in more serious sickness.

  • Unlike seasonal allergies, there is no over-the-counter medication to fully stop omicron symptoms from wreaking havoc on your immune system.
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What they’re saying: “Allergy and (omicron) symptoms may mimic one another,” Dr. Jeffrey Dlott, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics, told Health.

  • Dlott explained how confusion over symptoms could lead to increased infection, saying, “Because of this, someone may confuse COVID-19 symptoms for allergy symptoms and not take the proper precautions to reduce spread,” per Health.
  • “The omicron variant, more than the others, seems to have more of the upper respiratory tract symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat,” said otolaryngologist Ahmad Sedaghat, director of the Division of Rhinology, Allergy and Anterior Skull Base Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Scientific American reported.

Symptoms to look out for: According to the CDC, the four most commonly reported omicron symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.

Both Yale Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that these symptoms are also typically experienced by people with seasonal allergies.

How to know the difference: While you can take a COVID-19 test to see if you’re actually sick or just sneezy, the results may take time to come in. The results also might not always be completely accurate — false negative test results are sometimes possible, the Deseret News reported.

  • Allergist Janna Tuck, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says the one symptom that would indicate COVID-19 infection rather than allergies is a fever, per Scientific American.
  • “If somebody is having fever, you can pretty much guarantee that they have a viral illness,” Tuck says.

The bottom line: If you’re struggling to tell if you have COVID-19 or allergies, check yourself for a fever, take a test and take your personal medical history into account.