Fall has just begun, and those of us with allergies can already feel it. As the leaves change and the weather shifts, there are more allergens in the air to irritate your eyes and nose. And while sneezing and sniffles are always unpleasant, in 2021, even the slightest stuffy nose or lightest cough can conjure up the fear that you have a COVID case on your hands. Although many of the symptoms of allergies and COVID do overlap, doctors say there's one sign that your symptoms are likely not just allergies. Read on to see if your runny nose could be COVID.
If you have a fever, it's not allergies.
Although mild COVID cases and allergies share a lot of the same symptoms, experts say there's one that differentiates the two. "Allergies will never cause a fever. If you have a fever, you can't blame that on your allergies," internal medicine and pediatric specialist Casey Mabry, MD, told NBC affiliate WBAL.
Internal medicine physician Jay Shi, MD, also pointed out this important distinction. "Seasonal allergies do not cause fever," he told Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System (SCL Health), "If you are experiencing fever, you should contact your doctor or seek out COVID-19 testing promptly." However, it's important to note that fever isn't always present in a COVID case. So if you have any symptoms, it's better to be safe and get tested.
If you experience muscle aches or nausea, it's also more likely that you have COVID.
Fever is the biggest discrepancy between a COVID case and allergies, because fever is a common COVID symptom that never occurs with allergies. But there are a few other frequent COVID signs that you rarely or never see with allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea never occur with allergies but can sometimes be a symptom of COVID. Additionally, 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 likely have allergies.
Per the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms that overlap between allergies and COVID include coughing, runny nose, tiredness, and pink eye. But if you have an itchy nose, mouth, eyes, or inner ear, it's likely that you just have allergies, since these symptoms haven't been widely reported with COVID. Additionally, SCL Health notes that if your symptoms worsen when you go outside, it's likely that you have allergies. If you have COVID, the symptoms would generally worsen steadily over time, whether inside or outside.
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If you've never experienced these symptoms before, it's more likely to be COVID.
Some 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, all of a sudden, are getting congestion and sore throat, and you're not feeling well in the fall, but you've never had that before, maybe get tested."