How to tell if it’s COVID-19 or allergies this spring

Published: February 23, 2021 4:53 PM EST
Updated: February 23, 2021 5:20 PM EST

Sniffling, fatigue and coughing are all a part of dealing with seasonal allergies. But, during the pandemic, many are wondering whether it’s their allergies acting up or if they have coronavirus. WINK News Health and Medical Reporter Veronica Marshall is going to help you tell the difference.

It’s the time of year for allergies. Tree and grass pollen and mold are in the air and they’re irritating our immune systems.

Kimberly DeLeon struggles with her seasonal allergies. “It’ll make my face itchy and my eyes and then my throat will get itchy. And even like, my eyes get swollen. It’s crazy,” DeLeon said.

While she’s used to dealing with allergies, this year is different.

“When I wake up in the morning, and I feel my throat itching, I don’t know whether I just need to take some allergy medicine or call my boss and be like, ‘Hey, I need to go get a COVID test.’ It’s hard to tell the difference, some mornings,” said DeLeon.

The CDC says seasonal allergies and COVID-19 symptoms can overlap. So, for example, if you’re experiencing a headache, a sore throat, or shortness of breath, how do you know if it’s allergies or something worse?

Robert Hawkes is the Director of FGCU’s Physician Assistant Program and says to be on the lookout for the symptoms that are unique to each.

“The stuffy nose, runny nose, constant sneezing, kind of sore throat, those are the common things we see with allergies,” Hawkes said.

As for COVID-19, that would be losing your sense of taste and smell.

Another strategy is to keep track of the timeline and your personal history.

“If people do have seasonal allergies, they know kind of late winter, early spring when things start to come out. That’s kind of when they get as we call it their normal allergy season. So if that’s what they’re experiencing, then most likely it will be allergies,” said Hawkes.

“I know it’s just my sinuses. I don’t have a fever or anything, I need to stop being such a worrywart,” said DeLeon.

But, if it feels too close to call, experts say to contact your doctor or to go get tested.

Other symptoms that are more unique to COVID-19 and not allergies would be diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, and fever. Symptoms unique to allergies would be itchy or watery eyes and sneezing.