Is it allergies or COVID-19?
Editor’s note: As what we know about COVID-19 evolves, so could the information in this story. Find our most recent COVID-19 blog posts here, and learn the latest in COVID-19 prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is this really allergies, or something more concerning?
Here, I’ll answer a few of the questions you might have about these two very different conditions—and outline what they actually have in common.
COVID-19 is caused by a viral infection, and while it can cause severe complications, for many patients symptoms may resolve relatively quickly without medical intervention. Because it’s infectious, COVID-19 can be transmitted between individuals.
Allergies are caused by sensitivity to allergens such as pollen or pets, and the symptoms may last much longer. In some cases, this may be an entire pollen season or, in the case of pets, all year round. Allergies aren’t passed from person to person.
Common signs of allergies include nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Congestion and eye symptoms have been seen less frequently in COVID-19 patients than some other symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
That said, there can be quite a bit of overlap, so if there’s any question regarding the nature of symptoms, it may be best to discuss them with a medical provider.
Nasal symptoms are possible with COVID-19, but they’re not the most common symptoms reported. One key symptom in COVID-19 patients is loss of smell, so you should monitor for this. As there can be overlap in allergy and COVID symptoms, if you have any concern for new or different symptoms, particularly if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, we recommend you talk to a medical provider.
It’s important to continue chronic allergy and asthma medications throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. If medications are stopped and symptoms flare, this may result in additional visits to your doctor.
Casey Curtis is an allergy specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an assistant professor in the Ohio State College of Medicine.