CoronavirusCovid-19D Kevin McNeirHealth

Allergies, Cold, Flu or COVID-19? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

With the devastating impact, physically, emotionally, socially and economically, that the global community has endured since the health pandemic known as COVID-19 invaded our lives, it’s easy to understand why every sneeze, cough or tickle in the throat causes even greater concern than in years prior to the pandemic.

Questions like “Is it COVID-19?” or “Have my worst fears come to pass?” now haunt millions of allergy suffers around the country. Seeking an answer becomes even more complex as one attempts to self-diagnose to determine if they or someone around them, is suffering from allergies, a cold, the flu or COVID-19.

To be certain, it’s best to consult a physician. However, there are several ways to determine what may – or may not – be ailing you.

Allergy symptoms range from mild to severe and can occur seasonally or be present year-long. In patients with asthma, allergies can cause a cough, wheeze and shortness of breath. Allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to normal things in your environment — such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander — and are not contagious. Medications, including allergy shots, can typically help patients find long-term relief.

COMMON ALLERGY SYMPTOMS

Sneezing

Runny or stuffy nose

Itchy or watery eyes

Itchy nose or ears

Post-nasal drip (which can sometimes cause a mild sore throat)

Mild fatigue

COVID-19 AND COMMON SYMPTOMS

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a viral illness spread through droplets via coughing, sneezing and close personal contact. Symptoms typically start between 2-14 days after exposure and will typically resolve within around 14 days after onset, whether the symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. While you may have received the COVID-19 vaccine, it is still possible to get COVID-19. But if you’ve been vaccinated and then test positive for COVID-19, your symptoms are expected to be milder.

Fever

Dry cough

Shortness of breath

Intense fatigue, body aches

Loss of smell

KEY POINTS TO DETERMINE ALLERGIES OR COVID-19 INFECTION

1) Timeline and a person’s history.

Often people with allergies have a history of seasonal allergies.

Allergy symptoms tend to be more long-lasting than viral symptoms.

2) Allergy symptoms often respond to allergy medications.
3) Allergies typically make people itchy. Itchiness is not a symptom of viral illness.
4) Patients with allergies do not develop a fever. Often people with COVID-19 do.
5) Patients with allergies may also have asthma, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. COVID-19 typically does not cause wheezing.

Coronavirus symptoms can resemble symptoms associated with seasonal allergies but often include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some patients may complain of not being able to taste or smell, or experience diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

What is the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19). Seasonal allergies triggered by airborne pollen can lead to seasonal allergic rhinitis, which affects the nose and sinuses, and seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, which affects the eyes. But while COVID-19 can cause fever, fever is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies.

Similarities in symptoms for both allergies and COVID-19 include: cough, fatigue, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, congestion or runny nose.

However, there is not enough scientific information to know whether having seasonal allergies puts you at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or having more severe symptoms if you do contract COVID-19.

COVID-19 is an acute illness while allergies are more of a chronic issue that generally manifests as mild symptoms and lasts for the allergy season – typically from April to mid-June. Compared to COVID-19, seasonal allergies, as well as allergies that occur perennially, have a much longer time course.

In addition, patients will often be familiar with their typical seasonal allergy symptoms, as they often will be similar each spring.

ALLERGIES, COLD, FLU, OR COVID-19 CHECKLIST

Here’s a chart that will help you identify your symptoms and determine from what health issue you may be suffering.

Chart courtesy Emerson Hospital, Concord, Mass.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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