How to tell the difference between coronavirus and seasonal allergy symptoms

As allergy season begins, the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In the past few weeks, the pollen count reached what the National Allergy Bureau considers the high range. On Monday, March 7, the count was 174 pollen particles per cubic meter of air. That’s according to Atlanta Allergy and Asthma, the organization that keeps track of the pollen count every day.

With that much pollen in the air, should you be worried that sneezing could be an indicator of COVID-19?

Here’s the difference between allergy symptoms and those of COVID-19.

What is coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is still considered a new disease by the agency. It is caused by a coronavirus that was not previously seen in humans. Defined as an infectious disease by the World Health Organization, WHO said it “learned of this new virus on 31 December 2019, following a report of a cluster of cases of ‘viral pneumonia’ in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China.”

What are seasonal allergies?

The National Institutes of Health noted seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, is common and affects 8% of adults and children in the U.S. Also known as hay fever, allergies cause an immune response in the body to something that causes no problems for most people — pollen from plants.

If you have coronavirus symptoms...

WHO stated the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • dry cough
  • fatigue
  • fever

Other less common symptoms that may affect some patients include but are not limited to:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Additional less common symptoms are:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • irritability
  • reduced consciousness, which is sometimes linked to seizures
  • sleep disorders
  • severe and rare neurological complications: strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.

There are also severe COVID-19 symptoms including:

  • confusion
  • loss of appetite
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • high temperature (above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)

Severe illnesses are more likely to occur in people who fall in the CDC’s increased-risk group: older adults, pregnant people, people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart ailments and people who need extra precautions.

Should people experience difficulty breathing, cough or a fever, they should get immediate medical attention.

If you have allergy symptoms...

The NIH stated they may include the following:

  • sneezing
  • itching in the eyes, mouth, nose and throat
  • coughing
  • runny or stuffy nose

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology stated that watery eyes can also be a symptom. The professional association also noted that allergies can be seasonal or occur year-round.

How can you prevent the coronavirus?

There are several vaccines in place to protect against COVID-19, according to the CDC. The agency outlines that getting vaccinated is among the most important ways to slow the spread of the disease.

Additionally, the CDC stated people should do the following:

  • wear a mask indoors in public in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high, regardless of vaccination status
  • practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from people who are sick
  • avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas
  • wash hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available
  • avoid touching their face with unwashed hands
  • cover coughs and sneezes
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
  • test to prevent spread to others

How can you prevent or treat seasonal allergies?

The best way to control seasonal allergy symptoms is to avoid triggers, according to the NIH. It’s recommended to wash clothing, hair and bedding — the latter in hot water. Also, bathe your pets since they can bring pollen indoors. Upholstered furniture and carpets should be avoided, according to the NIH, because they can harbor allergens. Keep humidity levels low for indoor allergens and vacuum floors once weekly.

Mild symptoms can be alleviated with over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants, but severe symptoms may sometimes require prescription medications and allergy shots.

If anyone has the previously outlined symptoms and is in doubt, they should check with their physician.