Allergies or COVID-19? Get Help Deciphering Your Symptoms

Allergies or COVID-19? Get Help Deciphering Your Symptoms

As COVID-19 cases continue to spread across the country, experiencing a sneeze, cough or tickle in the throat may be more nerve-wracking. Before worry sets in, remember that spring is the time of year for seasonal allergies, which affect close to 50 million Americans each year.    

How do you determine if your symptoms are COVID-19 or allergies? To help you understand the difference, it may be best to look at the hallmark symptoms of each.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness and may spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. This is why federal and state guidance for social and physical distancing is recommended to help prevent the spread.

The CDC and WHO state the most common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms may include:

  • Aches
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Sore throat 
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Loss of the sense of taste or smell.

The CDC says COVID-19 symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to rouse
  • Bluish lips or face

If you believe you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms listed here please contact your doctor or your local health department to find out whether you should be tested. Testing criteria is changing rapidly as more tests become available and as details of this illness are better understood.


Allergies occur when a person's immune system reacts to a foreign substance, such as pollen, pet dander or certain foods. While fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, it’s not often associated with allergies. The Cleveland Clinic notes if you don’t have a fever or trouble breathing, allergies are the more likely culprit, if you’re not feeling well. 

Allergy symptoms may include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Runny congested nose
  • Sore throat or cough associated with post-nasal drip

Allergies may linger for months in the spring season. If you feel symptomatic, the time of year may be a good indicator that you may have allergies. COVID-19 symptoms typically progress more rapidly over a shorter period of time, appearing 2 to 14 days after possible exposure. 

Another indicator that you may have allergies is if you are taking over-the-counter antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays to help your symptoms and those medicines help you feel better. There is no current evidence that shows allergy sufferers are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. 

For more information on the symptoms you may be experiencing, consider using the COVID-19 symptom checker for help in determining if you have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also learn more about your symptoms by contacting your doctor or health care provider.

For more COVID-19 resources, click here.