How to Tell the Difference between Coronavirus and Allergy SymptomsOne of the confusing aspects of coronavirus has been its wide range of symptoms, including which symptoms are first to appear. A dry cough, fever, and general fatigue have been the most common symptoms, as well as some people who experience diarrhea as their first symptom. Though less common, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat may also be symptoms people experience with COVID-19. With allergy season upon us, lots of people find themselves evaluating every cough, sniffle, and tickle. This year’s allergy season in Colorado is expected to be bad once again. Allergens and pollen counts in Colorado have been getting worse and worse in recent years, most likely due to a combination of population growth and climate change. Unfortunately, this means not only that a lot of people will suffer from allergies this year, but that they may be doing so for the first time, making it even harder to know the difference between coronavirus and allergy symptoms.
How to Tell the Difference between Coronavirus and Allergy SymptomsThe most common signs are a combination of dry cough and fever, but the symptoms vary from person to person so that it’s often impossible to know what’s wrong from the earliest symptoms. A scratch at the back of your throat could be allergies, irritants, a cold, the flu, or COVID-19. Other than monitoring yourself to see if additional symptoms appear and continuing to maintain social distance, there’s not much you can do but wait and see. Before long, your course of symptoms will likely reveal that you have seasonal allergies or something more serious. However, because coronavirus symptoms can temporarily subside and then return with greater severity, it may take up to two weeks to know for sure you’re out of the woods. If you experience shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, confusion, severe fatigue, or bluish lips or face, you need to seek immediate medical attention. In many cases, the only definitive way to make a diagnosis is with a COVID-19 test. However, not everyone with potential symptoms will qualify for testing. As more test kits become available, the criteria may change. For the time being, you can read our previous update on COVID-19 for more information about testing criteria.
Know the Symptoms, Know YourselfKnowing your typical allergy symptoms is a good start but may not be helpful in every situation. Some of us will develop seasonal allergies for the first time. Some of us will develop a more severe reaction to this year’s pollen count and other airborne particulates. Many people experience seasonal allergies as sinus pressure, nasal congestion, or a runny nose, but you may also get a sore throat, cough, or nausea due to postnasal drip. Chest pain and shortness of breath can be symptoms of both anxiety and COVID-19. Usually, these symptoms have a rapid onset and subside after a short period of time when caused by anxiety or a panic attack. In most cases of COVID-19, other symptoms such as cough, fever, nausea, or diarrhea will appear before shortness of breath. However, if the shortness of breath persists for more than 20-30 minutes, you should contact a doctor. If you’re struggling to understand the appearance of a particular symptom or disease, you can check out the following resources for additional information:
- Need a basic reminder and reassurance that your seasonal allergies, hay fever, and pollen-sensitivity are very unlikely to be COVID-19? Check out this feature article from
- Learn more about the symptoms and causes of postnasal drip, which include allergies, sinus infections, irritants, and changing weather—as well as colds and flus.
- A lot of people are feeling anxious right now. Chest pain and shortness of breath can be scary symptoms even in the best of times. Psychology Today offers these tips for telling the difference between anxiety and COVID-19.
- Do you have multiple symptoms or multiple family members with symptoms? In general, it can be handy and reassuring to consult a chart of symptoms that are common and less common for allergies, flu, colds, and COVID-19.