How do you differentiate between allergies and COVID-19 symptoms? An allergist weighs in

WINNIPEG — With spring here, more and more people will be experiencing seasonal allergies, and many of their symptoms may look similar to COVID-19 symptoms.

So how can someone tell the difference? CTV News Winnipeg sat down with allergist Elinor Simons to find out.

THE SIMILARITIES

Simons said someone might experience congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal itching, due to pollens and irritants in the air during the spring. Others could also experience itchy, red, or watery eyes.

“There’s just more stuff in the air sometimes in the spring,” Simons said.

Simons noted that these symptoms do overlap with COVID-19 symptoms, and it can be difficult to tell the difference.

She suggested that those who know they experience seasonal allergies should start taking medicine before their symptoms set in.

“For people who know they’re about to get seasonal allergy symptoms, allergists will typically recommend that they start taking their allergy medicine a little bit before they expect their symptoms to happen,” Simons said.

She noted that antihistamines only need to be taken a few days before the expected symptoms, while some nasal sprays can take a longer period before they begin to work optimally.

“It’s still different for different people,” Simons said.

“So, again, for the seasonal sufferers who know what they’re likely to expect, they should be proactive and start taking their medicine at the time that they think they need to really prevent symptoms as much as possible, especially this year.”

She said this advice is especially important right now, because people need to wear their masks .

“We’d like people to keep their masks in place and not have to remove them to sneeze or blow their noses.”

COUGHING

Another similar symptom between seasonal allergies and COVID-19 is coughing.

Simons said that with allergies, coughing is caused by post-nasal drip. She added that prevention is important, particularly in the pandemic.

“That’s also something that’s especially important to prevent now, because it can contribute to (the) transmission of any virus.”

THE DIFFERENCES

Unlike with COVID-19, Simons said allergies don’t typically cause a fever.

She said if someone has a fever, along with allergy symptoms, she’d be more suspicious that it’s a virus, even if the person is known to have allergies.

– With files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.

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