Do I Have Allergies or COVID-19? Know the Differences

A man is sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket blowing his nose next to a pile of used tissues and a pillow.


With the change of season comes the onset of seasonal allergies for millions of people throughout the country. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to discern if your symptoms are simply caused by a pollen spike or the latest variant of the coronavirus.

On average, about  30% of adults and 40% of children experience seasonal allergies each year in the United States.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 60% of the population has been infected with the virus.

One of the most significant differences between allergies and COVID-19 is the symptoms you may experience. While some symptoms are similar, they are not the same in severity or length.

Let’s start by defining what each one is so you better understand how you get them and precisely how they can affect your body.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease in the coronavirus family caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

For most people, this disease causes mild to moderate respiratory illness. In rarer instances, it may cause severe symptoms that can lead to death, especially for immunocompromised patients.

Anyone can contract the COVID-19 virus and become ill at any age. It is spread from person to person by an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe.

What are allergies?

Allergies are your immune system’s overreaction when exposed to an allergen. They can be both seasonal and year-round.

Seasonal allergies are most commonly caused by allergens found in the air such as pollen or ragweed.

Year-round allergies can be triggered by other factors, such as exposure to mold or pet dander.

People may experience both types of allergies, which can begin at any point. If you are experiencing allergies regularly, we recommend getting an allergy test to determine what you are allergic to. 


Although symptoms of allergies and COVID-19 can be similar, there are some major differences between the two respiratory-affecting illnesses.

Read the list below to explore the differences in symptoms between allergies and COVID-19.

Symptoms COVID-19 Allergies
Chills Usually Never
Fever Usually Never
Itchy/Scratchy Throat No Yes
Body Aches Usually Rarely
Shortness of Breath Yes Sometimes
Sore Throat Sometimes Sometimes
Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea Sometimes Never
Loss of Smell Usually Rarely
Wheezing Sometimes Sometimes
Headache Sometimes Sometimes
Nasal Congestion Sometimes Usually
Runny Nose Rarely Usually
Sneezing Sometimes Usually
Itchy/Watery Eyes Never Usually
Dry Cough Usually Sometimes


It’s probably allergies if:

  • Your eyes are itchy and watery.
  • Your symptoms seem to flare up in certain situations or seasons of the year.
  • You’ve experienced symptoms for more than 1-2 weeks that remain at the same severity level.
  • Symptoms become better when you’re not exposed to an allergen.

 It may be something more serious, like COVID-19, if:

  • You have a fever or body aches.
  • You have new fatigue that can easily lead to feelings of exhaustion.
  • You experience severe body aches that last several days.
  • You’ve lost your sense of taste or smell.
  • You have a persistent cough.

Treatment options

It is important to note that allergies and COVID-19 are treated differently.

Although most people who test positive for COVID-19 recover on their own, there are various ways to help reduce symptom severity at home, including

  • Proper hydration
  • Adequate rest
  • Fever reducers
  • OTC anti-inflammatories, pain relievers and decongestants
  • Throat lozenges
  • OTC saline nasal drops or spray
  • A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier

In more severe cases, medical intervention that could include hospitalization or prescription medication may be needed.

If you are experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, don’t delay care; visit your nearest urgent care or emergency room now.

Treatment for allergies may include:

  • OTC antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays
  • Avoiding the triggering allergen
  • Wearing a mask when outside or exposed to the allergen
  • Modifying indoor spaces to keep allergens out
  • Washing your hair and face after exposure

Get tested for COVID-19 today!

Although most cases of COVID-19 or allergies can be treated effectively with rest, hydration and symptom-specific medication, we recommend visiting our urgent care facility if you have symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus.

We gladly offer rapid PCR testing seven days a week, with no appointments necessary. Simply walk in and start feeling better sooner with the care you need today.