How To Tell the Difference Between Allergies vs. COVID-19?

Ashley Brooks
Ashley Brooks23 Apr 2024
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️

Symptoms of allergies may overlap with early signs of COVID-19. While signs and symptoms of allergies often impact the nasal passages, they rarely result in fever or digestive discomfort. With COVID-19, one may experience a range of symptoms, including congestion, fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell. 

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How To Tell the Difference Between Allergies and COVID-19

It is essential to know that seasonal allergies are caused by the immune system’s response to allergens, such as seasonal pollens from trees or grass. COVID-19 symptoms, on the other hand, are caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. While some symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies may be the same, such as cough, tiredness, and a runny nose, there are several differences in symptoms to be aware of. 

Symptoms of Allergies vs. COVID-19

Below is a table of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 and allergies, respectively. 

Symptom or SignAllergiesCOVID-19
CoughSometimesUsually (dry)
Muscle AchesNeverUsually
Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, inner earsUsuallyNever
Sore ThroatRarelyUsually
Runny or Stuffy NoseUsuallyUsually
Pink Eye (conjunctivitis)SometimesSometimes
Nausea or VomitingNeverSometimes
Lost of taste or smellSometimesUsually (early - without a runny or stuffy nose)

Symptoms of Allergies

Seasonal allergies, which can also be called rhinitis or “hay fever,” is the inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the nose, often due to allergies to pollen, dust, and other airborne substances. People may also experience food allergies or asthma as a result of heightened sensitivity to allergens. It is important to note that allergies are not contagious. 

Some symptoms of seasonal allergies include: 

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Itchy sinuses, throat, or inner ear canals
  • Ear congestion
  • Postnasal drainage

Some less common symptoms of allergies include

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Allergies primarily affect the nasal passage and typically do not result in fever. An individual experiencing allergies is also less likely to experience digestive conditions, as they may experience in the case of COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe and may present differently in everyone, especially since individuals with the vaccine tend to have milder cases of COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 may take anywhere from 2-14 days to develop, and some people may not develop noticeable symptoms at all. 

Even if you are asymptomatic (have no signs of COVID-19), but know you have been exposed, make sure to get tested and quarantine yourself to ensure the safety of others. The coronavirus is spread through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact.

Make sure to get a COVID-19 test as soon as you begin to experience any of the following symptoms to prevent the further spreading of the virus. Mild symptoms of COVID-19 include the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of taste and smell

As a COVID-19 infection continues to progress, symptoms may intensify. Moderate symptoms include the following:

  • Cough is more persistent
  • Fever is above 100.4°F
  • Temporary shortness of breath with minor physical activity (climbing stairs)
  • Desire to stay in bed all-day

Typically, if you are older or have an underlying medical condition, you are more likely to experience more severe and life-threatening symptoms as a result of COVID-19. The World Health Organization reports 1 in 5 people will have a severe reaction. Severe reactions to COVID-19 may include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing up thick mucus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills and sweating
  • New loss of taste and smell
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Sepsis
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Ashley Brooks

Ashley Brooks works in Healthcare Consulting and graduates with her MPH in September of 2022 from George Washington University, but graduated with her B.S. in Health Science from James Madison University in 2019. Ashley has been with Mira since June of 2021 and shares the passion for creating affordable healthcare coverage for all!

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