Venn Diagram - Covid vs Alleries

Courtesy of the CDC

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Springtime often brings warm sunshine and blossoming flowers — but for many of us, congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny noses and other signs of being under the weather come along, too.

In a normal year, we may chalk up these symptoms to seasonal allergies, but with COVID-19 still spreading and sharing some similar symptoms, it may be hard to tell the difference and know when to seek care.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), each year, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies. In fact, allergies are among the country’s most common, but overlooked, diseases.

While there is no cure for them, allergies can be managed through treatment and prevention, such as taking an over-the-counter medicine or using an inhaler for severe allergies.

Allergens, which can range from foods to plants to metals, enter the body by being inhaled, swallowed, touched or injected. They then cause an allergic reaction within your body because your immune system thinks they are harmful, so it reacts by releasing a substance called immunoglobin E (IgE).

Too much IgE can trigger inflammation or swelling of the airways making it harder to breathe and potentially contributing to an asthma attack.

On the other hand, COVID-19, a virus in the coronavirus family, is thought to be spread primarily from person-to-person via close contact and through respiratory droplets. The severity of illness caused by COVID-19 varies from having no symptoms, often known as being asymptomatic, or having mild symptoms to developing severe illness, which in some cases can result in death.

So, how can you tell the difference between the two based on symptoms? While only a health care professional can definitively diagnose your illness, typically, allergy symptoms appear while you are exposed to the allergen, which for seasonal allergies usually means a few weeks to months, while COVID-19 symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

If you’re dealing with itchy/watery eyes and a scratchy throat, it’s usually an indication of allergies, while if you have a loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath, fatigue, or muscle or body aches, it could be COVID-19.

Whether you’re ready to enjoy spring by working in the garden, hiking, or pursuing other outdoor adventures, don’t let confusing symptoms slow you down.

Visit your local health care provider who can help discern allergies from COVID-19 and determine the best treatments to help you feel better.

Erlina Bay is a family nurse practioner and advanced practitioner director for MedExpress in Indiana and Illinois.

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