DENVER (KDVR/WATE) – Fall is officially here and with it, comes seasonal allergies. From coughing to sneezing, and even that scratchy throat, how can you tell the difference between your allergies and COVID-19?
The answer might not be as simple as it seems. The easiest way to determine the difference is by getting a COVID-19 test.
According to Dr. Flavia Hoyte, an allergist with National Jewish Health, “Most people who have allergies know what their allergies feel like and when they tend to peak.”
A fever does not accompany allergies, so if you have one it could be the first sign that you may want to get tested for COVID-19. Experts warn that you can also be sick with COVID-19 and not have a fever, however.
‘Almost identical’ symptoms
As we enter the fall, parents bracing themselves for the usual cold and flu threats now have to be on the lookout for COVID-19 and spiking RSV cases in parts of the country.
“It’s really challenging for parents to tell the difference between seasonal allergies, common colds, and potentially the COVID virus and how it’s affecting kids,” East Tennessee Children’s Hospitals Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joe Childs, told WATE. “Symptoms between RSV and other viruses, even COVID, are almost identical.”
Dr. Childs said COVID-19 and RSV case numbers are remaining high, “we’re seeing all these other respiratory viruses we’re used to seeing in the winter right now because over the course of the winter we just didn’t see it. With people being much more separate, no worldwide travel, masks being used a lot more, it just protected us from having that kind of season while we were protecting ourselves against COVID-19.”
Now, the changing of seasons has some people concerned about whether their sniffles are from fall allergies or something more severe.
“As the fall pollen season starts, which is especially weeds that are pollinating right now, if you are especially sensitive avoid being outside as much as possible until your past that pollination period,” Childs said.
As a first step toward protecting yourself and your children, Childs recommends testing when someone in the immediate family falls ill.
Childs said social distancing, masking, and washing your hands are always the best practices to keeping from getting sick, but if you do come down with a cough, “Anytime a family member is ill with respiratory symptoms, they need to avoid close contact with the very youngest of children.”
He adds that right now is the best time to get your COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t gotten it already, but getting your flu shot can wait. “The protection you want from the flu vaccine, it would be best to wait until it’s closer to when the flu is going to arrive here to get that protection.”
Lastly, he says if you feel sick, your first call should be to your primary care provider. Doctors say when it comes to allergies, antihistamines can be very effective. Monoclonal antibody infusions are also effective for people who find themselves with COVID-19, are at high risk, and older than 12.
Symptoms of allergies
- Itchy, watery and/or red eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itching of the skin
Some allergy symptoms, like nasal congestion or runny nose, also can be symptoms of viral infections such as a cold or COVID-19.
Allergies generally will not affect the lungs but can trigger asthma in people with allergic asthma. Allergies also typically do not cause a fever or extreme fatigue, according to the National Jewish Health.
Symptoms of COVID-19
According to the World Health Organization, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Dry cough
Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include:
- Loss of taste or smell,
- Nasal congestion,
- Conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes)
- Sore throat,
- Muscle or joint pain,
- Different types of skin rash,
- Nausea or vomiting,
- Chills or dizziness.
Symptoms of severe COVID‐19 disease include:
- Shortness of breath,
- Loss of appetite,
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest,
- High temperature (above 38 °C).
Other less common symptoms are:
- Reduced consciousness (sometimes associated with seizures),
- Sleep disorders,
- More severe and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.
This list does not include all possible symptoms.