COVID-19 vs. seasonal allergies: How do you tell the difference?

(Press release from SSM Health)

It’s allergy season for many people in south-central Wisconsin, and this fall is unlike others they’ve been through before. COVID-19 and seasonal allergies share many symptoms, including:

  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose

But there are notable differences between the two. Allergy sufferers more commonly experience itchy, watery eyes or sneezing. COVID-19 symptoms can include fever, body aches, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

SSM Health Allergist Dr. Ashleigh Olson says this is something frequently being brought up by patients.

“The main question I ask them is whether symptoms are different than baseline, and if so, they need to be evaluated,” says Dr. Olson. “In addition, allergies should respond to allergy medications. COVID-19 will not. So that’s another way someone might be able to tell the difference between the two.”

In terms of prevention, masks are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. They will also offer some protection against seasonal allergies because they can block some larger particles from being inhaled. However, masks should not be your only line of defense against allergies. Smaller pollen or mold particles can still get through many face coverings.

Dr. Olson also regularly sees patients with asthma. Some of them have expressed concerns that their symptoms are due to COVID-19 infection.

“My biggest advice for asthmatics is we want them to keep their asthma as controlled as possible,” says Dr. Olson. “That way, if they do get sick, they are at a better starting point than if it was uncontrolled.”

If you have any questions about your allergies, asthma or COVID-19, please reach out to your primary care provider.

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