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COVID-19 vs Allergies

written by Leah McCabe Written by Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewed by Raul Zambrano, MD Reviewed by Raul Zambrano, MD
Raul Zambrano, MD

Raul Zambrano, MD

Dr. Raul Zambrano received his BA from Columbia College in NY, Master of Science in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in MA, and his MD from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in NY. He served in the United States Army Reserve Medical Corps from 2001-2012 with four deployments. Dr. Zambrano enjoys spending time with his wife and three children when not working. Dr. Zambrano speaks Spanish fluently.

April 22, 2022 Read Time - 5 minutes

*NOTE:  Due to a lack of scientific data at this time, PlushCare physicians do not prescribe ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, or azithromycin/other antibiotics to treat COVID-19.

COVID-19 Symptoms vs Allergy Symptoms

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, testing for the virus may be difficult to find. Seasonal allergies can share some of the same symptoms as early COVID-19 and without COVID-19 testing, patients may be unsure what the next steps are.

If you find yourself in this scenario, let’s talk about ways you can help distinguish between seasonal allergies and COVID-19.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

How Do You Know If You Have Allergies or COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms and seasonal allergies share symptoms, but COVID-19 symptoms typically include fever, muscle pain, dry cough, and shortness of breath.

COVID-19 vs Allergies | Symptom Table

COVID-19 and allergies share some key symptoms. However, some of the differences between seasonal allergy symptoms vs COVID are explained in the table below. 

SymptomCOVID-19Allergies
SneezingX
Stuffy noseXX
Runny noseXX
Itchy nose and eyesX
Sore throatX
HeadacheXX
Shortness of breathX
CoughXX
ChillsX
Loss of taste or smellX
Muscle painX
FeverX
Pain in chestX
New confusionX

Symptoms of Allergies

Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to an external allergen, such as pollen. An allergen can trigger an allergic response resulting in any number of the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy sinuses
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy ear canals
  • Ear congestion
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath (traditionally seen more frequently in those with pre-existing asthma)
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Many people with seasonal allergies also have asthma. If you have asthma, seasonal allergies may trigger an asthma attack. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, unless a person has a respiratory condition such as asthma that can be triggered by exposure to pollen.”


Read: Allergies and Asthma


Spring and summer are typically the time of year when seasonal allergies are strongest.

As pollen collects and falls from blooming plants, it can spread in the air and be inhaled into your respiratory system. Especially during the summer, certain grasses and trees are common triggers for people with allergies.

How to Protect Yourself from Seasonal Allergies

To protect yourself against uncomfortable seasonal allergy symptoms, try some of the following home tips.

  • Give your carpets a thorough cleaning before allergy season starts.
  • Wash your bedding weekly during allergy season.
  • Keep your windows closed on high allergen days.
  • Keep air circulating throughout your house to keep air pollen-free.
  • Use a quality HEPA filter for your vacuum.
  • Control the humidity levels in your home to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Get Allergy Treatment Online

If you need help determining if your runny nose and congestion are caused by seasonal allergies, book an online appointment with one of our trusted PlushCare doctors. If you have pre-existing seasonal allergies and need a prescription filled or a new diagnosis, our doctors can help with that too.

After an online consultation, our health professionals will recommend treatment for you that may include over the counter medications or if needed a prescription to your nearest pharmacy.


Related: Allergy Treatment Online


COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by exposure to the coronavirus. If you were recently exposed to COVID-19 you may be asking yourself, what are the first symptoms of COVID-19?

Unfortunately, there is no one clear answer, as symptoms vary greatly from person to person.

You may be wondering how long after exposure to the virus before symptoms begin to show. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the coronavirus may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.


Read: How Long After Exposure Do You Get Coronavirus?


The average incubation period before symptoms show is 5 to 6 days. Below is the prevalence of each specific symptom ranked according to 2020 research by the JAMA Network.

  • Fatigue: 68.3%
  • Smell and taste disturbance: 64.4%
  • Dry cough: 60.4%
  • Fever: 55.5%
  • Muscle pain: 44.6%
  • Headache: 42.6%
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: 41.1%
  • Sore throat: 31.2%

Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if the following symptoms are present:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

However, many patients who have tested positive with COVID-19 show no symptoms at all throughout the entire duration of their sickness. For that reason, social distancing is important even if you do not feel any of the symptoms described above.

Is Sneezing a Symptom of COVID-19?

No, sneezing is typically not a symptom of COVID-19. This symptom can be a good indicator to help identify if you have the coronavirus or allergies.

Is It Possible to Have Both Allergies and COVID-19 at the Same Time?

Yes, it is possible to have both allergies and COVID-19 at the same time. If you are experiencing the classic symptoms of allergies, such as itchy eyes and a runny nose, along with COVID-19 symptoms, consult your doctor.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

What to Do if You Are Not Sure if You Have COVID-19 or Allergies

As allergy season approaches, you may be asking yourself, how do I know if I have COVID or allergies? If you are not sure, it is important to get a COVID-19 test in order to confirm your diagnosis.

You can order an at-home COVID-19 test kit. If you test positive for COVID, one of our online doctors can help guide you through the next steps by providing a care plan. To speak with one of our licensed primary care doctors online, book an appointment today.


Read More About COVID-19 and Allergies


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Seasonal Allergies. Accessed on February 14, 2021 at https://acaai.org/allergies/seasonal-allergies

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of Coronavirus. Accessed on February 14, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html 

Emerson Hospital. Allergies, Cold, Flu or COVID-19? How to Tell the Difference. Accessed on February 14, 2021 at https://www.emersonhospital.org/articles/allergies-or-covid-19

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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