Someone coughed. RUN! Or maybe not? In today's world, with every sneeze, cough or tickle in the throat, many people wonder: Do I have COVID-19? For the millions of allergy suffers around the country, this question becomes a little more complex — allergies or COVID-19, or perhaps something else? Following are ways to tell if you are suffering from allergies or if you should call your physician and get tested for COVID-19.

ALLERGIES

Allergy symptoms range from mild to severe and can occur seasonally or be present year-long. In patients with asthma, allergies can cause a cough, wheeze and shortness of breath. Allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to your environment — such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander — and are not contagious. Medications can typically treat your symptoms and allergy immunotherapy — allergy shots — can often help patients find long-term relief.

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Allergies may develop at any age, even to irritants to which you have previously been exposed. Many symptoms are the same in both diseases, but a key point to note is that allergies do not cause fever. While a dry cough is common in both seasonal allergies and COVID-19, a cough related to an “itch” or “tickle” in your throat is most likely due to seasonal allergies. Cough with allergies is most likely a result of postnasal drainage.  Itchy eyes or sneezing are another sign that you are most likely suffering from seasonal allergies. A fever, on the other hand, would be cause for concern; as would shortness of breath, body aches, and extreme fatigue.

To help with distinguishing between allergies and COVID-19, check out this diagram from the CDC:

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KEY POINTS TO DETERMINE ALLERGIES OR COVID-19 INFECTION

1) Timeline and past history.

  • Think back to last Fall and the Fall before last. Do you remember dealing with similar symptoms at this time last year? If so, you are most likely suffering from seasonal allergies. While uncomfortable, the good news is they usually can be relieved with help from over-the-counter medications and will not last for long.
  • Allergy symptoms tend to be longer lasting than viral symptoms.

2) Allergies typically make people itchy. Itchiness is not a symptom of viral illness.

3) Patients with allergies do not develop a fever. Often people with COVID-19 do.

4) Patients with allergies may also have asthma, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. COVID-19 typically does not cause wheezing.

5)  Allergy symptoms often respond to allergy medications and provide some relief.

If you are experiencing symptoms and are concerned whether they are allergies or signs of COVID-19, continue to take all of the necessary precautions including, wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, social distancing and contact your physician immediately. We, at Changebridge Medical in Montville, are happy to assist you and our community.

Lora McHale, PA-C, has over 30 years of experience as a Physician Assistant and has been with Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, since 2019 after relocating from Atlanta to Montville.  When she is not working, Lora spends her free time with her husband, their four sons, and their English bulldog, Mugsy. She is an avid sports fan and a college football enthusiast who devotedly follows the Clemson Tigers.