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How to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19

How to tell if it's allergies or COVID-19
How to tell the difference between allergies and COVID-19 03:29

As allergy season collides with yet another rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, deciphering the difference between symptoms of the coronavirus and allergies can be tricky. So how can you tell the difference between the two?

"The pollen counts are up throughout the country, and the symptoms can be quite similar," board certified allergist, pediatrician and immunologist Dr. Anjuli Mehrotra told CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers and Nancy Chen Thursday. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common symptoms between seasonal allergies and COVID can include cough, headache and tiredness. 

Seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath, which is a symptom consistent with COVID, unless the person has a respiratory condition like asthma. Allergies also do not typically cause a fever, chills, body aches or a loss of taste or smell, which are all common symptoms of COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, COVID does not usually cause sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, or sore throat, which are common allergies symptoms, the CDC says. 

Despite the differences in symptoms, Mehrotra urges those who are unsure to err on the side of caution. 

"It's actually best to consider it COVID until proven otherwise," she said. "If you're having symptoms, I would not hesitate to take an at home COVID-19 test, specifically a rapid antigen test could be really useful in this scenario."

Mehrotra said those who have seasonal allergies are not at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, or for experiencing more severe symptoms with the virus. But she warned that those with moderate to severe asthma could be at increased risk of hospitalization with COVID. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies every year. Allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to a foreign substance such as pollen or animal dander. 

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