COVID-19 and seasonal allergies have many overlapping symptoms, making it challenging to distinguish between them.
In this post, we’ll help you navigate the differences and cover the following topics:
- COVID-19 common symptoms
- How allergies work
- Common allergy symptoms
- How to know if it’s COVID or allergies
- Allergy treatment
- What to do if you suspect you have COVID
Let’s get started.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Since its first detection in Wuhan in December 2019, the emergence of multiple variants, including the dominant Omicron subvariants EG.5 and FL.1.5.1, has reshaped its symptoms over time.
Consequently, some symptoms that were more prevalent at the beginning of the pandemic, such as loss of smell and taste, maybe less common today.
Common COVID symptoms in 2023 include:
- Sore throat
- Fever or chills
- Continuous cough
- Runny nose or congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Altered sense of smell and taste
It’s important to note that every COVID case is different. While some individuals experience mild to no symptoms, others suffer from severe illness.
Allergies Common Symptoms
Unlike COVID, allergies are not caused by a virus and are not contagious. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance known as an allergen. Allergens can trigger reactions when they are ingested, touched, inhaled, or injected.
Allergy symptoms, which are partly caused by inflammation, include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Scratchy throat
Less common allergy symptoms may include:
- Pink eyes (conjunctivitis)
- New loss of taste or smell
In severe cases, allergies can also cause difficulty breathing, although seasonal allergies rarely cause these symptoms unless the individual has a pre-existing respiratory condition like asthma. It’s crucial to note that a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening if not treated properly.
How Can You Tell If It’s COVID or Allergies?
While both seasonal allergies and COVID share some symptoms like runny nose, congestion, fatigue, cough, headaches, and loss of smell or taste,
there are key differences to be aware of:
- Seasonal allergy symptoms appear around the same time each year and typically last a couple of weeks, while COVID can occur at any time and symptoms can vary.
- Allergies often cause itching, affecting the eyes, throat, ears, and nose, while COVID does not have this symptom.
- Allergies do not typically result in fever, as fever is a response to fighting bacterial or viral infections like COVID.
- COVID symptoms tend to be more severe and longer-lasting, particularly regarding loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath. Shaking and chills are not typical allergy symptoms.
- Symptoms worsening when outdoors is a clear sign of allergies.
It’s important to note that you can experience allergies and a viral infection simultaneously. If you have common allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and a runny nose, along with COVID-19 symptoms such as fatigue and a fever, it’s a good idea to get tested and consult your doctor.
What to Do If You Have Allergies
Seasonal allergies typically persist for several weeks, and managing them may involve:
- Over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Minimizing exposure to allergens where possible
You may also consider getting an official allergy diagnosis.
What to Do If You Suspect You Have COVID
If you suspect you may have COVID-19, it’s essential to get tested. While at-home COVID-19 tests can be handy for an initial check, their efficacy is highest during the early stages of the illness.
Furthermore, if you’re experiencing symptoms and receive a negative result from your at-home test, it’s recommended to confirm with a PCR test at your local clinic for more certainty. Additionally, remember to wear a mask and isolate yourself until you receive your results.
Need a COVID test? No matter where you are, or what type of test you need, find testing locations near you with our international directory.