Nowadays, even having cough and runny nose can make anyone wonder if they are signs of COVID-19 infection. But such symptoms can also result from seasonal allergies, which occur particularly during the spring, summer, or fall. Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies and it is the peak time for plants and trees to release this allergen. So, before you think of popping pills to treat your cough, know the actual cause of it first. Here’s how to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19 symptoms.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Some patients may also experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Those who become seriously ill may develop difficulty breathing. When you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.
According to WHO, around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Elderly people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness, it said.
But most people (about 80%) with mild COVID symptoms recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Sometimes, infected people don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Exposure to airborne substances such as pollens may cause seasonal allergies. Allergy symptoms happen partly because of inflammation, which occur when your body overreact to things like pollen or mold.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Runny nose and nasal congestion
- Watery, itchy, red eyes
- Dry and tickly cough
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth, or throat
- Swollen, blue-coloured skin under the eyes
- Postnasal drip
Seasonal allergies are sometimes called as “hay fever” but they don’t give you a fever. If you feel anxious about sniffles and coughs at this time of unprecedented pandemic, it’s understandable. But if you usually get seasonal allergies and you are experiencing the above symptoms, the probability is high that you’re experiencing seasonal allergies. Normally, doctors recommend starting allergy medication early in the season to prevent getting the symptoms.
If your condition worsens, despite taking the allergy medications, or you have unusual symptoms, it’s possible you have a virus. But these symptoms are not necessarily an indication that you have COVID-19—it might also be the flu.
Watch out for these unusual signs
Here are some unusual signs that shows it’s not allergy.
- Allergies do not cause fevers, so if you have high temperature, it could be a sign of viral or bacterial infections.
- Fatigue is a symptom of allergies, but body aches and pains may be caused by a pathogen.
- Many COVID-19 patients also experience diarrhea and nausea, but these symptoms are not associated with seasonal allergies.
- COVID-19 may also lead to a total loss of smell and taste, which is not an allergy symptom.
- Shortness of breath can occur due to allergies if you also suffer from asthma. If you’re having serious trouble breathing, seek medical help.
Even if you do have COVID-19 and you are only experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, stay at home and practice social distancing. Getting out of the house to get tested could do more harm than good, given the current overload on the healthcare system. If your conditions worsen, consider calling your doctor for advice.