Between allergies, the flu, and COVID; identifying the cause of symptoms you may experience can be tough and confusing. The CDC estimates that over 60 million people experience allergies. Typically, people with allergies know their triggers and how they respond to being exposed to those triggers: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, scratchy throat etc. But living through this ongoing pandemic that has introduced COVID, symptoms for this virus as well as allergies can be similar. Understanding the key differences between allergies and COVID can help you identify what you are experiencing and determine the best course of treatment.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are a reaction that is triggered by the body’s immune system. This reaction is produced when the body comes into contact with an allergen. Allergens vary and are typically harmless substances that the body mistakes as a threat or invader. Common examples include animal dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold. To make sure the allergen does not make you sick, the immune system activates a response system to neutralize the allergen. Thai includes releasing chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream which target and eliminate the allergen. This overreaction produces the symptoms associated with allergies including the following:
- Itchy and/or watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Sneezing, runny nose
- Congestion, stuffy nose
Allergens are typically inhaled but exposure also includes through touch and ingestion. Most people are aware of their allergies and how they react in response to allergen exposure. But with the presence of COVID, people can become more concerned about symptoms which can mirror COVID.
Identifying COVID Symptoms
COVID is an infectious disease that is caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This respiratory infection occurs through contact with droplets and particles that are in the air (released by a person with COVID). Common symptoms of covid include:
- Fever or chills
- Congestion, runny nose
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Nausea, vomiting
While some may be asymptomatic ( no symptoms present), others can experience symptoms mildly, and some can have severe experiences that include hospitalization.
Telling Difference Between Allergies & COVID
COVID and allergies share a few symptoms including: sore or scratchy throat, fatigue, cough, and runny or stuffy nose. But there are important differences that can help you separate the two. Key ways you can distinguish COVID from allergies are:
- Fever: allergies do not usually include experiencing a fever whereas this is a common COVID symptom.
- Cough: while COVID and allergies can involve coughing, the type of cough is different. Allergies involve a cough that is more wet and more sneeze-like whereas COVID involves a dry cough.
- Smell & taste: though a loss of taste and smell was much more of a common symptom earlier in the pandemic, this is not a symptom of allergies.
- Shortness of breath: issues with breathing is a common symptom of COVID. This differs from allergies which usually only involve shortness of breath if people have a respiratory issue like asthma.
These differences can help you differentiate allergies from COVID. Another sign is if you take antihistamines or decongestants and your symptoms are alleviated which points to allergies. Nonetheless, it is important to take a COVID test to be sure of what you are experiencing.
Experiencing allergies while COVID continues to impact people can be stressful. We recommend practicing safety measures to help you prevent experiencing allergies and COVID as much as possible. A few strategies you can implement include:
- Wear a mask: this is a useful way you can protect yourself from both COVID and allergies. Wearing a mask reduces the risk of inhaling allergens as well as COVID particles which is a common way people develop symptoms.
- Reducing risk of COVID: additional measures you can practice to reduce your risk of COVID include: getting vaccines and boosters, washing your hands after any activity, practicing social distancing, and regularly cleaning high touch surfaces.
- Reducing impact of allergies: you can minimize the impact of allergies by reducing your exposure to allergens, avoid the outdoors during peak pollen hours, and taking over the counter medications in advance.
These measures can help you navigate everyday environments more safely, reducing your risk of experiencing severe symptoms. Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your health and wellness.