PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Although the days are starting to feel slightly cooler, allergy season is not over just yet. In September, ragweed pollen spreads through the air along with the scents of pumpkin spice and cinnamon, triggering allergic reactions. As you stifle hay-fever-induced sniffles, you might find yourself thinking, “Do I have COVID-19, or are these just my allergies?”

In a press release, Patient First offers some insight. Symptoms of allergies often include congestion, a runny and/or itchy nose, itchy and/or watery eyes, and sneezing. Unlike typical seasonal allergies, COVID-19 can cause fever, body aches, and chills.

Body achesYESNO
Itchy/watery eyesNOYES
While they have several symptoms in common, COVID-19 and allergies also have some unique symptoms that may help differentiate them. (Information from Patient First and the CDC)

Other symptoms unique to COVID-19 include new loss of taste or smell and nausea, while both allergies and the coronavirus can cause coughing, fatigue, headaches, sore throats, and congestion according to the CDC.

With students heading back into classrooms, colds may further complicate the equation. While allergies occur when the body comes into contact with a foreign substance — or allergen — that causes a reaction, both colds and COVID-19 are caused by viruses.

Colds and COVID-19 can have many symptoms in common including a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, a reduced sense of smell or taste, coughing, and fatigue, Medical News Today reports.

However, COVID-19 can cause a wider variety of symptoms than a cold. Fevers, body aches, and diarrhea are some COVID-19 symptoms that are uncommon in people with colds according to Medical News Today.

“That common symptom complex makes people very confused, and the things that are unique are those things that you have to depend upon,” Timothy Craig, professor of medicine and pediatrics with Penn State University in Hershey, said.

For those who prefer the better-safe-than-sorry route, Craig says it’s a good idea to get tested for COVID-19 if experiencing any symptoms. The CDC advises anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested for the coronavirus and self-isolate until receiving a negative test result.

“Last year at this time when we had such limited testing…it put us in a real bind. But now, testing is pretty accessible almost everywhere,” Craig said, so “if you have any question in your mind, it’s better to be tested than not be tested.”

— — — — —

Should I get a COVID-19 test…

…if I have seasonal allergies every year and am familiar with the symptoms I’m experiencing?

Dr. Craig said: If you probably have years of the same exact symptom complex, and you have them now, and you know you’re allergic to maple, and maple’s blooming, wow, there’s a lot of evidence piled up there to say that you probably are just having your allergy type of symptoms. And I would feel pretty reassured, and I might not get tested. But if you have any questions, before you’re going to go out in the public domain, I would probably get tested anyway.

…if I already received a negative test result when my allergy or cold symptoms started up, but my symptoms persist?

Dr. Craig said: You’re bringing up the fact that the tests aren’t 100% correct. Their sensitivity sometimes is lacking, and it depends on what kind of test you get…I think if you have typical symptoms of fever especially — so fever doesn’t occur with allergies — and you have a sore throat and you have body aches, then I would go back and get tested a second time, especially if you have a loss in taste and smell. But if you don’t have any fever…and you don’t have a loss of taste and smell, you probably can depend on that [first] test pretty well.

…if I have already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, but I’m experiencing some of the shared symptoms of a cold/allergies and the coronavirus?

Dr. Craig said: None of these vaccines are 100%, so you can still get the virus despite the vaccine. The chances are unlikely, though. So if you get allergy symptoms and you have the vaccine and your symptoms are very typical, probably going about just treating your allergies is what you need to do. But if you have a virus, especially with a fever, then I might still be cautious [and] either limit my access for a couple weeks or at least 10 days, or I might get tested…I would say body aches and fever and sore throat, probably worthwhile [to get tested].

Get daily news, weather, breaking news, and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

— — — — —

Craig encourages people who typically experience seasonal allergies to begin taking allergy medication before they start experiencing symptoms.

Patient First also offers the following advice for avoiding hay fever:

  • Remain inside on dry and windy days
  • Shower after going outside to remove pollen from skin and hair
  • Wear a face mask while working outdoors
  • Clean and vacuum floors often
  • Use air filters, and change them often
  • Cover mattresses and pillows, and wash bedding in hot water