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Spring Allergies vs. COVID-19: Learn the Difference

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A helpful table to compare symptoms

Posted by Eileen M. Mumm, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC

With the COVID-19 virus circulating, every cough or sneeze might bring on feelings of unease. Could these symptoms be caused by the coronavirus? Or is it just seasonal allergies?

The signs and symptoms of spring allergies overlap with some of the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. Use the table below to compare the symptoms of spring allergies with those of COVID-19.

Call your Temple Health doctor for any concerning symptoms, even if you think the issue may be just spring allergies.

Is It Spring Allergies or COVID-19?

SYMPTOM DESCRIPTION SEASONAL ALLERGIES? COVID-19?
FEVER In adults, a body temperature above 100° is considered a fever. No. Seasonal allergies do not cause your temperature to rise. Yes. A fever is a key sign of a potential coronavirus infection.
DRY COUGH A dry cough is one that does not produce mucus. Sometimes. Seasonal allergies may cause a dry cough, especially one that lingers for several weeks. Yes. A dry cough is another key sign of a coronavirus infection.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH Shortness of breath means feeling as if you can’t get enough air. Shortness of breath may be accompanied by chest “tightness” or pain. Sometimes. Severe seasonal allergies can cause mild shortness of breath or even wheezing. Yes. Shortness of breath in conjunction with a fever and dry cough indicates a potential coronavirus infection.
SNEEZING Episodic or ongoing sneezing is a common symptom of many medical conditions. Yes. Sneezing is a common sign of nasal allergies. No. The CDC does not believe sneezing is a common sign of a coronavirus infection.
NASAL CONGESTION Nasal congestion occurs when inflamed tissue inside the nose produces an excessive volume of fluid that results in a runny nose. Yes. Nasal allergies commonly cause severe nasal congestion and a runny nose. No. The coronavirus typically does not cause nasal congestion or a runny nose.
EYE DISCOMFORT Eye discomfort can include itching, watering or feeling dry. Yes. Pollen allergies commonly cause eye discomfort, such as itching and watering. No. The coronavirus doesn’t cause eye symptoms.
HEADACHE Headaches come in several varieties, from tension headaches to sinus pain to migraines. Sometimes. Seasonal allergies can trigger both sinus headaches and migraines. Yes. The CDC has reported headaches as a symptom of the coronavirus.

Some of the signs and symptoms of spring allergies overlap with those of the COVID-19 virus. Symptoms without a fever, however, likely can be attributed to something other than the novel coronavirus.

If you experience any symptoms that distress you, call your doctor for advice on whether to seek medical care.

Editor's Note: This blog was updated on May 5, 2020 to reflect new COVID-19 symptom findings from the CDC regarding headaches.

Eileen M. Mumm, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC

Eileen M. Mumm is a pulmonary nurse practitioner at the Temple Lung Center.

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