With allergy counts rising in the middle of summer and new COVID-19 variants taking over, more people are asking whether their cough and runny nose are allergies or the virus.
Currently, the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants account for most reported cases this summer.
Those subvariants have caused more upper respiratory, cold and flu-like symptoms, according to Chicago's top doctor, including fever, night sweats and sore throat. Some patients, though not all, are again experiencing a loss of taste and smell.
But Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that while the variants may be newer, the symptoms remain similar to previous cases, with one noticeable shift.
"Nothing really significantly different, I would say, but just more symptoms. It's a more virulent infection," Arwady said during a Facebook live Tuesday.
Arwady has also said previously that a lingering cough is common among those infected by the most recent COVID variants.
Meanwhile, Loyola Medicine's Allergy Count is updated each weekday morning during allergy season by allergist Dr. Rachna Shah, according to the Twitter account.
According to Loyola Medicine, the levels as of Thursday were reported to be:
Trees - absent
Grass - absent
Molds - high
Weeds - moderate
Before self-diagnosing, health officials have said the best way to identify the source of your symptoms is through testing, especially given some overlap between the coronavirus and seasonal allergies.
"When in doubt, I would say test up before you actually go and expose other people," Dr. Sai Nimmagadda , an allergist at Lurie Children’s Hospital, told NBC 5.
That's especially important for those who will be around immunocompromised or at-risk individuals.
But while the allergy season can last for several months, and with COVID transmission continuing, what should you do if your symptoms continue?
"If you test negative the first time, you should repeat it - especially if your symptoms are continuing or they're not responding to your classic allergy treatment medication," Nimmagadda said.
Here’s a list of COVID and allergy symptoms as outlined by the CDC:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell (although doctors have noted that the latest COVID variants typically will not cause loss of taste or smell)
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Even those who receive the coronavirus vaccine can also still contract the virus and may experience symptoms. Most vaccinated people, though, either have no symptoms or exhibit very mild symptoms, according to health officials, and the virus rarely results in hospitalization or death for those individuals.
The CDC advises seeking medical attention if a person is experiencing trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion and inability to wake or stay awake, as well as pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds.
- Symptoms from allergic rhinitis include:
- runny nose
- Symptoms from allergic conjunctivitis include:
- red, watery, or itchy eyes