How to differentiate COVID-19 symptoms from allergies

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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With the pandemic ongoing, these days a cough or a sneeze can be questioned more than ever.

More people are turning to search engines to determine if symptoms are the result of allergies or COVID-19.

While tree and grass allergy season is dying down, the next wave of allergies is about to hit.

“Fall weeds and rag weeds are coming back and they cause a lot of the same symptoms that happen in the springtime: eye itching, redness, swelling, sneezing, nose itching, runny nose, sometimes even a cough or shortness of breath can occur depending upon asthma and your triggers,” said Dr. Samantha Knox, a Gundersen pediatric allergist and immunologist.

Fall weed allergy season begins in mid-August and continues until the first frost.

Some COVID-19 symptoms like shortness of breath and coughing overlap with allergies, but doctors say are caused by different contributors.

“They can be very similar, coughs vary as far as wet and dry,” Knox added. “The typical asthma-type cough is dry. It can be triggered by being outdoors, exercise, cold air, even humid air.”

Doctors say if you’ve experienced these symptoms at a similar time in past years, it’s most likely allergies.

Additionally, allergies alone should not cause a fever.

“The symptoms that are most consistent with allergies really are itching,” Knox explained. “The itching of the eyes, itching of the nose, clear runny nose and sneezing are very predominant factors that are usually not seen with COVID-19.”

Allergists recommend over-the-counter oral antihistamine and nasal steroid sprays to help with allergies.

Gundersen also reminds those with asthma that a respiratory infection like COVID-19 or allergies can flair symptoms.

“The key right now for people who do have [asthma] is to make sure you’re communicating well, following up with your doctor, staying on your asthma medication and taking them consistently,” Knox said.

If you think you may have COVID-19 or if allergy medication is not relieving symptoms, Gundersen recommends contacting your primary physician.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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