COVID or allergies? Spring weather may make it tough to tell what’s ailing you

Spring is in full swing, and normally that means allergies for many. But with COVID-19 cases increasing again, you may be asking yourself if you have the virus or if it’s just allergies.

Allergies affect as many as 60 million people per year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And this allergy season, coronavirus infections are back on the rise in Los Angeles County, with a 40% increase in cases, public health officials said last week.

Pair that with gusty winds picking up in the next few days, and you’ll be asking yourself if those sniffles are something to worry about.

“Symptoms of allergies can definitely mimic the symptoms of COVID,” the L.A. County Department of Public Health told KTLA.

The two share some symptoms, including: cough, fatigue, headaches, tiredness, sore throat, sneezing, and a runny or stuffy nose, according to the CDC.

But they are also different. Common symptoms of COVID-19 that allergies do not commonly have are: fever or chills, body aches, loss of taste or smell, and shortness of breath. (Seasonal allergies don’t cause shortness of breath unless a person has a respiratory condition like asthma that can be triggered by pollen).

Meanwhile allergies can cause itchy or watery eyes, which COVID-19 doesn’t commonly do.

The CDC chart below allows you to compare the symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies so you can tell the difference:

The CDC shared this chart on Feb. 5, 2022, regarding allergies and COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 and seasonal allergies do share a number of symptoms, it is advised to take a coronavirus test.

“If people have new onset cough, or other symptoms of COVID we always recommend testing and isolating until you have the results of the tests,” L.A. County Public Health officials said.

If you’re sick, you’re advised to isolate from others and test yourself for COVID-19. If your symptoms are severe or if you have underlying medical conditions that suppress your immune system, you may need to consult with a health care provider.

Climate change may potentially lead to both higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons, causing more people to suffer from allergies, according to the CDC.

The good news is that face masks can reduce outdoor allergies if worn properly and cleaned regularly, the department added.

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