Is it allergies or the coronavirus? 4 ways to tell

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There are key differences between COVID-19 and typical allergy symptoms

By Gina DiPietro

The beginning of spring typically brings good news – longer days and warmer temperatures – but it’s also the start of allergy season for millions of Americans. This year’s allergy season coincides with the COVID-19 outbreak, also known as novel coronavirus.

There’s no reason to worry if you’re an allergy sufferer. Pediatric allergist Dr. Puja

Dr. Puja Rajani

Rajani at Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology explains a few major differences between coronavirus and typical allergy symptoms.

1. Rajani said fever is one of the biggest differentiators between seasonal allergies and novel coronavirus. It can cause a fever; allergies cannot.

2. Another major distinction is that allergies will come with some level of itchiness, while coronavirus will not. Itchy or watery eyes are common signs of allergies.

Patients diagnosed with the coronavirus experience three main symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

3. A sore throat or body aches could be an indication it’s something more serious.

A quick onset of aches and pains, fatigue, exhaustion or weakness is unlikely with allergies,” Rajani said. “While allergies can cause fatigue, it is usually very gradual, not ‘hitting you like a ton of bricks’ as has been described with viral infections.”

If you have a known history of allergies, consider this: If you do not have a fever, “try a stepwise approach with using your usual treatments, such as long-acting antihistamines or nasal sprays,” Rajani said.

4. If you’re producing mucus, it’s likely allergies or cold and flu symptoms, and not a COVID-19 infection. Rajani said a runny nose and mucus are typically clear in allergy sufferers. Yellow or green-colored mucus likely points to a viral condition, such as the flu. Rajani cautioned people not to jump to conclusions.

“There are other viruses besides flu that are around – parainfluenza, rhinovirus, enterovirus – so do not jump to conclusions, but take appropriate action,” Rajani said. “Wear a mask if you have symptoms and until you can be evaluated.”

Keep in mind that virtual care options are available for patients who have medical questions, but do not want to leave their home.

Novant Health has also established 24/7 coronavirus helpline (1-877-9NOVANT or 1-877-499-1697), which is designed for patients without a primary care physician who is experiencing symptoms and have questions about how best to seek care. All community members are encouraged to call their health care provider first, before driving to clinics, in order to help curb the spread of possible infection.

In addition to the helpline, Novant Health is offering a self-guided assessment tool to help patients determine if they should seek care(Note: This assessment is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be used if patients are experiencing a life-threatening emergency.)

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