Is that runny nose or fatigue a symptom of seasonal allergies or COVID? How to tell

Coughing, runny noses and fatigue are typical symptoms that people experience during allergy season, but they could also be signs of a COVID-19 infection.

So far this spring, pollen counts in Charlotte reached their peak in early April, with trees producing most of the powdery yellow substance, according to data from Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. The tree pollen count is currently above average, according to the website’s Sneeze-O-Meter.

But with a new Omicron subvariant reportedly mimicking allergy symptoms, it may be difficult to tell the difference.

The transmissible variant, Arcturus first identified in India, is spreading rapidly among children in India and has caused conjunctivitis, or eye irritation, a common allergy symptom, health officials have reported. The World Health Organization indicated that the latest symptoms are similar to a common cold or spring allergies.

However, contrary to COVID-19, seasonal allergies aren’t usually caused by a virus, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens,” Mayo Clinic says.

What symptoms do COVID-19 and allergies share?

The following symptoms can be signs of COVID-19 or allergies, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Tiredness

  • Cough

  • Runny nose

  • Pink eye

  • Loss of taste or smell

These symptoms usually signal allergies

There are symptoms you can watch for that signal seasonal allergies, according to Dr. Omar Ahmed, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Houston Methodist Hospital.

While watery, swollen eyes are common allergy symptoms, they are not typical in those with COVID-19 infections, according to Ahmed.

People with allergies also report having an itchy throat, but no pain. However, a sore throat could be a sign of a COVID-19 infection, Ahmed says.

COVID-19, along with other viral infections such as the flu, often cause fevers, but allergies do not, according to Ahmed, who noted that having a temperature of 100 degrees or higher is a clear sign that allergies are not the problem.

Those with symptoms that worsen after being outdoors are likely experiencing allergies, especially in the morning, according to Ahmed.