Allergies or Coronavirus – How Can You Tell?

By The Captain May 27, 2020

Allergies or coronavirus Wellness captain

Allergies or coronavirus?

Have you ever sneezed in a public space these days and immediately received strange looks from the people around you? Did you worry?

A more anxious person might confuse an allergy with the coronavirus these days. As pollen has started to bloom, spring allergies are an even greater torment during these pandemic days, as trees and weeds release these tiny grains into the air. When they get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the body’s defenses haywire. And the torment begins.

While some symptoms of the coronavirus overlap with allergies, there are several differences, described below.


Allergens and the immune system

Our immune system is “young and restless” – we may be winners in the fight against bacteria, parasites and certain viruses, but other enemies – the allergens – are on the horizon. They are usually proteins carried by the air or carried by food, medicine, cosmetics or cleaning products. Our immune system not only protects us from real enemies, but sometimes, just like us, humans, “sees” enemies where only just 5 minutes ago they were just friends and turns its attention and arsenal of fighting towards them.

Thus is born the conflict between the pollen grains and the immune system. The result of this conflict is a localized or extensive inflammation of the mucous membranes that come in contact, as a primary or secondary filter, with pollen grains and the inflammation then spreads.


Allergy symptoms

According to CDC, symptoms of these allergies range from mild to severe and occur seasonally. The most common include:


  • Sneezing and runny or stuffy nose
  • watery and itchy eyes,
  • itchy sinuses, throat and ear canals
  • ear congestion
  • postnasal drainage

Less common allergy symptoms include:

  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing


The symptoms of COVID, updated by the CDC, include the following:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chills
  • Chills which may cause repeated shaking
  • Headache
  • Throat pain
  • Muscle pain
  • New loss of the sense of taste and smell

Other symptoms that may be present in some individuals include a reddish/purple skin on the toes of mainly children and young adults (termed Covid toes), stroke in some younger individuals (less than 50 years old) and in children(usually, less than 5 years old), some develop symptoms of Kawasaki disease (rash, swollen neck nodes, reddish fingers or toes, inflammation of heart vessels).

Also we recommend to check the Pandemic Survival Kit we made just for you!

Differences and similarities between allergies and COVID-19?

If you are feeling sneezy, feverish, short of breath, exhausted, or achy, you may be wondering if your signs and symptoms are due to seasonal allergies or COVID-19.

Here you can compare the symptoms:

Allergies or Coronavirus:

Signs & Symptoms COVID-19 Allergy
Fever Often Uncommon
Fatigue, Tiredness Occasional, increases with time Occasional
Sneezing Infrequent Common
Body Aches & Pains Occasional, sometimes severe Occasional
Headache Occasional Occasional
Sore Throat Occasional Occasional
Stuffy or Runny Nose Infrequent Common
Diarrhea Infrequent Common
Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis) Infrequent but possibly common in severe infections Common
Watery Eyes Infrequent Common
Itchy Throat, Eyes & Ears Infrequent Common
Cough Dry cough, often severe Occasional
Shortness of Breath/Wheezing With mild/moderate infection Occasional with wheezing
Difficulty Breathing* Common in severe infection* Common in severe attacks
Chills Common Uncommon
Repeated Shaking Chills Common Uncommon
Muscle Pain Common Uncommon
Ageusia (Loss of Taste) and/or Anosmia (Loss of Smell) Occasional Infrequent
COVID Toes (Toe Rash) Occasional No
Stroke Symptoms & Signs (<50 Years of Age) Infrequent No
Kawasaki Disease Symptoms & Signs Possibly in children No
*Needs oxygen or ventilator


“The big differentiating factor between allergies and COVID-19 are those itchy symptoms -itchy eyes, itchy nose and sneezing. If you are experiencing these, they are most likely due to environmental allergies and not COVID-19,” says Dr. Rachna Shah, an allergist at Loyola Medicine.

Based on Science: 

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)


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