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, CDC data shows. In places like Los Angeles County, public health officials are already warning of a 40% increase in cases.
“Symptoms of allergies can definitely mimic the symptoms of COVID,” the L.A. County Department of Public Health told Nexstar’s 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:
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.
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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.