Fall has just begun and those of us with allergies can already feel it. As the leaves change and the weather changes, there are more allergens in the air that irritate your eyes and nose. And while sneezing and sniffing is always unpleasant, in 2021 even the smallest stuffy nose or lightest cough can raise the fear that you have a COVID case on your hands. While many of the symptoms of allergies and COVID overlap, doctors say there’s one sign that your symptoms probably aren’t just allergies. Read on to see if your runny nose could be COVID.
If you have a fever, it’s not an allergy.
While mild COVID cases and allergies share many of the same symptoms, experts say there is one that sets the two apart. “Allergies will never cause a fever. If you have a fever, you can’t blame it on your allergies,” internist and pediatrician Casey Mabry, MD, told NBC affiliate WBAL.
Internal medicine doctor Jay Shio, MD, also point out this important distinction. “Seasonal allergies do not cause a fever,” he told Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System (SCL Health), “If you have a fever, you should contact your doctor or seek COVID-19 testing immediately.” However, it is important to note that fever is not always present in a COVID case. So if you have symptoms, it’s better to be safe and get tested.
If you experience muscle aches or nausea, you are also more likely to have COVID.
Fever is the biggest discrepancy between a COVID case and allergies, as fever is a common COVID symptom that never occurs with allergies. But there are a few other common COVID signs that you rarely, if ever, see in allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, muscle strain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea never occur with allergies, but can sometimes be a symptom of COVID. In addition, sore throats are rare when it comes to allergies, but are often found in conjunction with COVID.
If you have an itchy nose, mouth, or eyes, you probably have allergies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms that overlap allergies and COVID include coughing, runny nose, fatigue and pink eye. But if you have an itchy nose, mouth, eyes, or inner ear, you probably just have allergies, as these symptoms have not been widely reported with COVID. In addition, SCL Health notes that if your symptoms worsen when you go outside, you likely have allergies. If you have COVID, symptoms will generally steadily worsen over time, both indoors and out.
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If you’ve never experienced these symptoms before, it’s more likely to be COVID.
A little common sense can help when trying to decipher whether you have COVID or allergies. Mabry suggests considering whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are new or something you’ve had before. “If you have brand new allergies this year, it’s probably not allergies,” she told WBAL. “If you suddenly get congestion and sore throat, and you don’t feel well in the fall, but you’ve never had that before, maybe get tested.”