It’s springtime, the bushes and trees are all blooming again, and the air smells like flowers. For many people, that means it’s time for seasonal allergies.
But how do we tell if those sniffles and sneezes are normal allergies, or the beginnings of coronavirus?
It’s a fear doctors say many allergy-prone patients are contacting them about. And with the local pollen count already in the “very high” range, allergies aren’t likely to let up any time soon.
Seasonal allergies can cause nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat, sinus pressure and headaches, and some fatigue, all of which can also be early symptoms of a virus, such as a cold, the flu, and the virus on everyone’s minds — COVID-19.
But the good news is there are some major differences.
“Allergies typically start with sinus symptoms; after a few days you get a headache, sinus pressure,” said Dr. Lahari Rampur, assistant professor in the Allergy and Immunology Department at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “But with COVID-19, or other influenza-type illnesses, you get fever.”
While spring allergies are commonly referred to as “hay fever,” a fever is not a symptom. As cruddy as allergies can make you feel, Rampur said that they should not cause your temperature to spike.
Additionally, coronavirus tends to bring body aches, shortness of breath, a cough, and a greater degree of physical fatigue that leaves a person feeling weak.
Another way you can tell if you’re experiencing allergies or the world’s most famous virus is by tracking when your symptoms began, and comparing it to previous springs to see if it follows a normal pattern.
“The spring season starts late in January and February-March,” Rampur said. “If they have a history of seasonal allergies, they would know when their symptoms typically start.”
Rampur said if you have sinus issues without the fever, body aches, and weakness, you don’t need to call your doctor unless symptoms persist longer than 10 days; most sinus issues clear up in that time frame.
If you have flu-like symptoms, however, she recommended calling your doctor within a couple of days to rule out COVID-19. The only way to attain a coronavirus test is to first consult your primary care physician, who can then refer you for testing.