Welcome to Springtime in Cincinnati: Is it Allergies or COVID?

In a non-COVID year, you’d probably pop an antihistamine and move on with your day, but now it's hard not to think that the coughing, sneezing, sore throat and fatigue could be indicative of something other than allergies.

click to enlarge Sneezing and stuffy nose? Is it allergies or COVID? - Photo: Brittany Colette
Photo: Brittany Colette
Sneezing and stuffy nose? Is it allergies or COVID?

Allergy season is upon us, which unfortunately means every breath of fresh air could be met with a drippy nose and itchy eyes. In a non-COVID year, you’d probably pop an antihistamine and move on with your day, but now it's hard not to think that the coughing, sneezing, sore throat and fatigue could be indicative of something other than allergies.

As we all know by now, COVID-19 is a contagious and sometimes deadly respiratory virus and some of its symptoms can overlap with those of seasonal allergies. Luckily, there are ways to tell the difference. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the key difference is that COVID-19 can cause a fever, which is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies.

Other symptoms of COVID-19 that are not commonly experienced with allergies include:

  • muscle and body aches;
  • loss of taste or smell;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • and a dry cough, which is more likely to be attributed to COVID-19 — unless you have a lot of post-nasal drip. 

The CDC also notes that seasonal allergies do not typically lead to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing unless someone has a respiratory condition, like asthma, which can be triggered by exposure to pollen.

Meanwhile, a runny nose and nasal congestion generally occur with allergies and are not very common in cases of COVID-19. 

The World Health Organization says that on average, it takes five to six days after the time of exposure for COVID-19 symptoms to begin, but symptoms can start anytime from one to 14 days post-exposure. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that allergies last as long as the allergen is in the air, which is about two to three weeks per allergen.

Of course, your best bet is to go get tested to confirm your diagnosis. 

While masks are recommended by the CDC to slow the spread of COVID-19, they also may offer additional protection for allergy-sufferers. Masks provide a barrier that prevents some larger particles from being inhaled, although smaller particles can still get through the covering.

The CDC says that washing your masks after every use, especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies, is essential. Unwashed masks could be covered in pollen particles.

Learn more about the differences between COVID-19 and allergies at cdc.gov.

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