Is it Seasonal Allergies or COVID-19?
During allergy season, it can be hard to distinguish between an allergic reaction and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Both conditions may cause a dry cough and sore throat. Severe allergies can also cause shortness of breath or trouble breathing, which can be a sign of COVID-19. However, there are some key differences that distinguish allergies from coronavirus.
Symptoms of Allergies vs. Symptoms of COVID-19
Typically, allergies cause distinctive symptoms that can include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal or sinus congestion
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Dry, tickly cough
In contrast, COVID-19 causes:
- Body aches or muscle pain
- Diarrhea or nausea
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
- New loss of taste or smell
Also, pay attention to the onset and duration of your symptoms. If they come on quickly and get worse, it’s likely that they are being caused by an illness. In contrast, allergy symptoms tend to be prolonged. And keep in mind that seasonal allergy symptoms will usually be consistent from one year to the next. If you’re experiencing new symptoms or your allergies feel different from past years, it could be a viral infection.
Distinguishing Between Cold and Flu
While COVID-19 is top-of-mind for everyone right now, it’s also possible that your symptoms are due to a cold or the flu. There are a few key distinguishing symptoms between colds and coronavirus. Colds typically do not cause diarrhea, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Likewise, COVID-19 does not usually cause runny or stuffy nose (one of the most common symptoms of colds and allergies).
It’s a little more difficult to distinguish between flu and coronavirus since they share many of the same symptoms. However, shortness of breath is not as common with the flu. If you experience any difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away.
Can You Have Allergies and COVID-19 at the Same Time?
As with any type of infection, it’s possible to have both COVID-19 and allergies at the same time. This can make it harder to distinguish between the two. If you recognize any signs of coronavirus along with your usual allergy symptoms, contact your doctor for advice. In less severe cases, people are advised to stay home and treat symptoms with home remedies to avoid spreading the virus.
Will COVID-19 Make it Harder to Access Allergy Treatments?
Many outpatient medical providers are asking patients to delay their appointments by several weeks or avoid coming in if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. That can make it harder to see your primary care provider for allergy relief. However, many practices are implementing telehealth visits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a good option for routine care like seasonal allergy treatments.
Most people find relief with over-the-counter allergy medications like antihistamines, decongestants, or corticosteroids. The best type of allergy medication for you depends on the type and duration of your symptoms.
If you have had a prescription allergy medication in the past, call your doctor and ask for a refill. Prescriptions can be called into the pharmacy directly, and you can use a pharmacy that offers delivery services so that you don’t have to leave the house and risk exposure to COVID-19. Refilling an allergy prescription? Don’t pay full price.
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