covid symptoms

COVID vs. Allergies: Here's How to Tell the Difference

You're not alone in trying to decipher between the two

Man Sneezing By Tree
Getty Images

With pollen sweeping the air and COVID variants lingering around, it can be difficult to identify the culprit behind the sneeze. 

So, how can you tell the difference between the two?

Experts say the only real way to know the answer is to take a test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms as COVID.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last month as mitigations started to lift across the state and city that people should continue to stay home if they aren't feeling well, at least until they receive a negative COVID test.

"I think it's going to be really important that people, first of all, continue to stay home when they're sick, or at least until they've had a negative COVID test," she said during a Facebook Live before the city lifted its mask and vaccine mandates.

Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News in January that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant.

Unlike the delta variant, however, many patients are not losing their taste or smell. She noted that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.

Still, CDC data showed the most common symptoms are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.

Here’s a list of COVID and allergy symptoms as outlined by the CDC:

COVID Symptoms 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

"This list is not all possible symptoms," the CDC states. "Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you."

Allergy Symptoms 

  • Symptoms from allergic rhinitis include:
    • sneezing
    • runny nose
    • congestion
  • Symptoms from allergic conjunctivitis include:
    • red, watery, or itchy eyes
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