COVID or allergies? How to spot the difference

As allergy season gets underway, confusion is expected when monitoring symptoms for COVID-19.

As allergy season blooms across Canada, there is potential for some confusion as we battle COVID-19.

There are many symptoms that overlap the two.

“Nasal congestion, fatigue and general weakness, sore throat and people with asthma may even develop a cough,” says virology research Dr. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson at the University of Calgary. “Early COVID-19 could look just like allergies.”

Itchy and watery eyes are not a symptom of COVID-19, so if that is what you are concerned about, it is likely the sign of an allergy.

However, the development of a new cough, fever, trouble breathing, muscle aches, full body soreness, and diarrhea could be symptoms specific to COVID-19.

“For anyone who is feeling ill, you need to self-isolate and follow public health's guidance -- we can't be 100 per cent sure," says Dr. Meier-Stephenson. "The risk of passing this onto someone if it is COVID-19, is far greater than staying home with allergies.”

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Another thing people should consider when trying to determine if it is allergies or COVID-19 is length of sickness.

“Symptoms of colds and viral illnesses, including COVID-19, will typically last 10 to 14days; allergies will last days to months depending on the allergen and exposure to the trigger,” explains Dr. Meier-Stephenson.


She also explains that COVID-19 will not respond to antihistamines. If you regularly take this during allergy season and it is working for you, then this could be a telling sign that your symptoms are allergy related.

Canadians should also think about what they have been exposed to. Is the tree in your backyard that is starting to bloom? Have you been cleaning and stirring up dust in your home? These are things that could trigger an allergic response and the reaction will happen quickly.

In the video above, Weather Network meteorologist, Dr. Doug Gillam, explains when Canadians can expect allergy season to start. He breaks down the regions and looks at who could see a more severe season due to weather patterns. Have a look.

Go here for our complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic

Thumbnail image source: Getty Images