Allergies or Covid? Know Their Similarities and Differences


Every year, spring brings with it the promise of sunshine, mild weather, gentle breezes, and of course, pollen, dust, and all the other microscopic nuisances that aggravate people’s allergies. Normally, this would be a minor inconvenience: some sneezing here, a scratchy cough there, these are all the hallmarks of allergy season, no need for worry.

But we all know ‘normally’ is now such a problematic word thanks to the coronavirus. With the Covid-19 still raging on in other parts of the world, having the sniffles might seem like a cause for concern. But when is it just allergies and when is it Covid? We take a look at the symptoms of both and try to get some Claritin.

Allergies or Covid? Similar Symptoms

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

At its most basic, Covid-19 is an illness caused by the coronavirus, a common type of virus that typically causes flu-like symptoms. Of course, the strain of coronavirus that ravaged the world back in 2020 thanks to coronavirus bats was a novel, more destructive strain, they generally cause the same symptoms as the regular flu, or in some cases, allergies:

  • Congestion
  • Runny Nose
  • Nasal Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Irritated Eyes (itching, watering, swelling)

Sound familiar? These are almost the same exact symptoms a person can get when exposed to pollen and other irritants during springtime. For many people, their respiratory tracts are very sensitive to changes in the air, which is why even the smallest amount of pollen in the wind can send someone into sneezing fits.

For those people, however, seasonal allergies are a fact of life, which means they’ll be prepared for allergy season as soon as the first warm day rolls up. Speaking from experience, my allergist almost always reaches out a week or so before allergy season starts, if only to remind me to start taking my meds early. If you’re a person who loves the outdoors, that lifestyle might make you susceptible to both allergies, so it’s best to be on alert.

As the pandemic trudges on, however, allergists are asking their patients to be a little more diligent, and for good reason: symptoms of allergies and Covid are similar, and you don’t want to mix up the two.

Here’s some good news and bad news, though: the good news is face masks not only reduce your chances of getting Covid, it also reduces your exposure to pollen and other irritants during allergy season. The bad news? If irritants do manage to find their way into your throat or nasal passages, your seasonal allergies might get triggered, which means your immune system is going to be put through the ringer, not a great idea when there’s a more serious illness floating around.

The best advice for people with seasonal allergies is prevention: take antihistamines before symptoms start. Again, for seasonal allergy vets like myself, we almost always know when the air is going to get choked with pollen. For everyone else, consider stocking up on anti-histamines when the weather starts to warm up.

Allergies or Covid? The Stark Differences

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

As we mentioned earlier, the coronavirus is a type of virus that causes flu and allergy-like symptoms, but there are more than a few differences between allergies and Covid that you should look out for.

Seasonal allergies and rhinitis are a pain in the butt, it’s true. However, other than post-nasal drips, sneezing in threes, scratchy throats, and itchy eyes, the inconveniences are minor. The symptoms of Covid-19, on the other hand, can range from a mild illness to severe respiratory issues, and unfortunately, even death:

  • Loss of taste and smell
  • High fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Chest pain
  • Severe fatigue

The moment you experience any of the symptoms above, it’ll be best to contact your medical provider immediately. While symptoms may vary depending on the person and the strain of coronavirus, any one of these symptoms can potentially mean that you’ve been infected with Covid-19 and will need medical treatment as soon as possible. Of course, some medicines might have these as side effects, so always check with your doctor.

Upon being diagnosed with the coronavirus, 2 things can happen. Mild symptoms (or if you’re asymptomatic), doing quarantine at home may be sufficient. Isolate in a specific room and stay there; use your own bathroom and don’t share things with others who may be living with you, including food and utensils. Most importantly, avoid contact with anyone else, even your pets.

If you’re showing severe symptoms like shortness of breath, you will be confined to a health facility for observation and to help you recover.

Thankfully, vaccines are being rolled out both here and around the world, and useful information continues to help many thanks to brands standing up against Covid-19. And while herd immunity is still far and away, we’re one step closer to finally ending a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives and billions of dollars lost in many industries.


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