Coronavirus symptoms vs seasonal allergies: How to tell the difference between allergies, COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Spring is here, and with warmer weather comes allergy season, including symptoms that often overlap with the coronavirus. And with climate change, experts say we are seeing a squeezing of the seasons, leading to more allergy attacks.

So how do you tell the difference?

"The main difference between allergies, environmental allergies, and COVID-19 is fevers and body aches," said Dr. Alex Thomas, an asthma and allergy specialist.

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Dr. Thomas has been using telehealth and even comics he illustrates to help patients distinguish between what they normally experience and COVID-19.

A long and wet, if not particularly cold, winter has set up a particularly nasty 2020 allergy season, he said.

The allergy symptoms that overlap with COVID-19 are nasal congestion, cough, runny nose and sore throat.

"The main difference that people should remember is with fevers," Thomas said. "That is something you would only really see with a viral infection such as COVID-19. Even though the term is 'hay fever,' you would not get a fever with environmental allergies."

For allergy sufferers, Thomas said to think about what you have experienced before, especially if you have asthma.

"Asthma is a chronic lung disease and that also increases the risk of severe complications with COVID-19," he said. "Specifically with asthma, if a patient is needing their rescue inhaler more than two times a week for acute symptoms, that is a red flag."

There have been other reports of increased sinus congestion, headaches and a loss of the sense of smell showing up with both allergies and COVID-19. The answer is more detective work.

"If you have typical allergies, you will not get a fever, you will not feel those kinds of body aches you do with a viral infection such as the flu or COVID-19," said Thomas.
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