COVID or Allergies?

The main warning signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are feverfatigue, and a dry cough. Sometimes, it also causes cold-like symptoms like a runny nose.  During allergy season, it may be hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and allergies.

While allergies are sometimes called "hay fever," they don’t really give you a fever. They do often cause a runny nose and a dry, tickly cough. They can also make you feel tired.

man with red eyes and tissue infront of his face

These symptoms happen partly because of inflammation. That's what happens when your body overreacts to allergens like pollen or moldSneezing, sniffling, and coughing can also make it hard to sleep. So can some allergy medications.

If your runny nose comes with itchy or watery eyes and congestion, it's probably allergies. But any of these can be signs of COVID-19:

If you have any of these, especially a fever, call your doctor. If you get allergies every year, watch out for symptoms that are different from what you’ve had before.

Severe allergies can make you can feel tightness in your chest and be short of breath, especially if you have asthma, too. But these can also be emergency symptoms of COVID-19. If you aren’t sure or you haven’t been diagnosed with asthma, call your doctor or 911 right away.

You can have allergies and a viral infection at the same time. If you have classic allergy problems like itchy eyes and a runny nose, but also have COVID-19 symptoms like exhaustion and a fever, call your doctor.

How to Treat Allergies During a Pandemic

In the midst of a virus outbreak, it's hard to get to a clinic for allergy treatment. The first thing to do is to stay away from whatever makes your allergies flare up.

You can also try over-the-counter allergy medicines. Check with your supermarket to see if they deliver and have these medications in stock. Or order them online.

If you have trouble finding them, or need something stronger like nasal corticosteroids, call your doctor. They may be able to prescribe something over the phone. Some pharmacies deliver medications.

When social distancing or stay-at-home rules are in effect, always follow the COVID-19 safety steps recommended by public health officials:

  • Stay away from others.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Visit public places like stores only if necessary, especially if you are in an area with lots of infected people.

Source: WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 26, 2020