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Can Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Mask a COVID-19 Infection?

written by / May 7, 2021
Can Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Mask a COVID-19 Infection?

Feeling all worn out, accompanied by shortness of breath? Before your COVID-19 panic sets in, you should eliminate one less dangerous culprit — seasonal allergies.

Each year, up to 30% of Americans get runny noses due to airborne allergies (allergic rhinitis). Changing your surroundings, like going on a camping trip, for example, might put you in contact with an allergen for the first time. 

So how can you tell the difference between seasonal respiratory allergy and a COVID-19 infection? 

Allergies vs. COVID-19 Symptoms

Symptoms Typical for Respiratory Allergies

  • scratchy throat
  • watery and itchy eyes
  • sneezing

Symptoms Characteristic for a COVID-19 Infection

  • fever 
  • chills
  • aches
  • loss of taste
  • loss of smell
  • conjunctivitis
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • skin rash

Overlapping Symptoms

Unfortunately, allergic rhinitis and COVID-19 share a not-so-short list of symptoms. According to the CDC, these include:

  • fatigue
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • cough 
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose

However, these symptoms are different in both quality and sensation. 

The cough in allergy-prone people is caused by post-nasal drip, not a lung infection like in COVID-19 patients.

Post-nasal drip also irritates the throat opening the path for infection (sore throat), which can be aggravated by dry air in people with seasonal allergy. 

COVID-19-caused sore throat feels swollen and prickly, with mild burning or itching sensation.

The headache in seasonal allergies results from sinus clogging up and is usually worse at specific pressure points.

The coronavirus-induced headache, on the other hand, extends to the whole head. Plus, it usually manifests as severe pressure-like pain.

That said, if you’re still not sure whether you’ve caught COVID-19 or you just got allergies, you should start with OTC antihistamines to eliminate allergy symptoms and prevent allergy-induced complications, such as asthma.

Only a high-sensitivity PCR test can tell whether you are, indeed, infected with COVID-19. 

Marija Kovachevska is a content writer at, Biochemist and Activist. After obtaining her BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology she changed her microscope for content research tools and continued researching in the fields of Medicine, Biology, and Communication. Her insatiable curiosity flare drove her to become a “content scientist writer” as she likes to say. Reality fascinates her and facts and statistics are a must-have feature in her articles. Fluent in English and French, she is a volunteer and communication associate for several non-profit organizations. French culture and handcrafting are her passion, but in her free time, she indulges in long walks and traveling, or as she likes to say “experiencing the inexperienced.”

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